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Impressionist Roses

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Book published Nov 1999 by Friedman/Fairfax.
ISBN: 1567998011.

Authored by Derek Fell
22 favorite votes.  
Derek Fell, the photographer and author, wrote a review of his latest book, Impressionist Roses, in the December 1999 issue of “Nouveau” magazine (nouvomag@bellatlantic.net). Even though he’s singing his own praises, the book sounds like it might be interesting... here are some excerpts from his review:
December may seem like an odd time of year to be discussing roses, but I can’t resist [that part in particular cracks me up] describing a new book I have authored, and which is in the bookstores in time for Christmas sales, titled “Impressionist Roses” (Friedman/Fairfax)...
The focus of the book is roses that were either planted or painted by the great French Impressionist artists, especially Monet, Renoir, Cézanne, Fantin-Latour and Calliebotte...
At the art museum of Princeton University, I found eleven reference books on the least-known of the Impressionist circle, Fantin-Latour... One book said he died in his Paris apartment, while another said he died at a weekend cottage, Croix Fantin, in the village of Bure, where he cultivated a rose garden! Burning with curiousity, I set out for Bure and in the churchyard found his grave... I began driving down narrow winding country roads looking for clues to his cottage, when I spotted a shiny brass cross sticking through a hedge. I pulled in the driveway to find a family having lunch on the terrace of a beautiful brick-and-timber house covered in Boston ivy. The owners were having a family reunion with three grown children and their spouses, and they confirmed that yes, indeed, this had been the country home of Fantin-Latour; and yes, he had died in the rose garden which stretched beyond the terrace -- an area now mostly devoted to lawn. He had felt ill while taking lunch on the terrace, walked into the garden and collapsed amongst his roses!
... Fantin-Latour was little-known in France at the time of his death, for his entire output of paintings -- numbering some 700 floral still lifes -- was taken every year for sale to English art patrons. He was so well respected in England for his paintings of roses that an English nurseryman named a rose for him, ‘Fantin-Latour’. A large, pale-pink shrub rose, it has a swirling petal pattern and a wonderful fruity fragrance...

Intrigued by this, I bought a copy for myself. This is not the be-all/tell-all of rose books, but (and this is a big but), if it doesn't stir up your imagination and get you to thinking about roses in a new and different way, I will eat my hat!
Fell says, "in spite of the rose's popularity, I have found that most rose gardens today lack imagination." So, he set out on a quest to visit gardens in France, Great Britain, New Zealand, and the United States, to find out which roses stirred the Impressionist painters to create all those wonderful paintings of the late 1880s and early 1900s. He visited the artist's gardens and documented the roses growing there.
There are a number of features that are particular to Impressionist gardens. The gardeners themselves not only lived in their gardens but they painted them as well. They used stimulating color combinations -- Monet had a hot color garden of orange and yellow, for instance -- and interesting companion plants -- hollyhocks and foxgloves -- to grow through the roses.
Fifty varieties of roses that either were grown in the gardens of the Impressionists, or are modern equivalents, are spotlighted, written about and lavishly photographed. Almost all of these roses are able to survive the cold winters of North America.
Derek Fell's aim was to create a book of ideas and I think he's achieved this. Impressionist Roses has certainly gotten my creative juices flowing and I think it will yours, too.
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