The Making of the French Garden

The Making of the French Garden

The Gardens of the Château de Méréville and Other Early Jardins à l'Anglaise of the Pre-Revolutionary Period

Thursday, February 17 at 12:00 p.m.
$10 Member • $20 Non-member • Free for students*
On Zoom • In English • 12:00 p.m. Chicago(CST) /1:00 p.m. Miami (EST)/19h Paris

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12:00 p.m. (Chicago) • 1:00 p.m. (Miami)  7:00 p.m. (Paris) 

* Entrée Libre initiative: Free for students high school, college, university. Please register with your .edu address

Following the success of our Grands Châteaux Series last winter, Russell Kelley spent the summer visiting the Grands Jardins de France! Our curator extraordinaire returns with a live online series exploring the evolution of the French garden through history, from the Renaissance to the Vertical Garden.  Get ready to travel through time and go green!


The Gardens of the Château de Méréville and Other Early Jardins à l’Anglaise of the Pre-Revolutionary Period

The “English” style garden arrived in France shortly after the end of the Seven Years War (1756-1763). The so-called “jardins anglais” or “jardins à l’anglaise” emulated the natural character of English landscape gardens such as Stowe or Blenheim, but on a much reduced scale and with a greater degree of eclecticism and whimsy. A dramatic break with the French Classical tradition, such “irregular” style gardens often combined a naturalistic topography with exotic structures, romantic ruins or antique temples and monuments. They embodied an ideal of nature artistically “improved”. Early examples of jardins à l’anglaise in France include Ermenonville, the Parc Monceau then on the outskirts of Paris, the Château de Bagatelle in the Bois de Boulogne, and the Hameau de la Reine (the Queen’s Hamlet) at the Petit Trianon in Versailles, but the two most extensive landscape gardens, complete with follies and picturesque features – parcs à fabriques – were the Désert de Retz near Versailles and the Château de Méréville in the Essonne department south of Paris. The Château de Méréville was built by the financier Jean-Joseph de Laborde between 1784 and 1794. The park’s Romantic – sometimes called Anglo-Chinese – style soon replaced the more formal and symmetrical Classical gardens of the 17th century as the principal gardening style both in France and throughout Europe. 

Speaker: Gabriel Wick is a Paris-based landscape historian, writer and curator. He is an adjunct lecturer in architectural and urban history at the Paris campus of New York University. He received his doctorate in history from the University of London (QMUL) in 2017, and holds masters degrees in landscape architecture from UC Berkeley and historic landscape conservation from the National Architecture School of Versailles (ÉNSA – Versailles). He is the author of a number of books and scholarly articles on 18th century French landscapes, including Le Domaine de Méréville - Renaissance d’un Jardin (Éditions des Falaises, 2018). He is currently consulting with the Foundation Chambrun on the conservation management plan of the Marquis de Lafayette’s domain of La Grange-Bléneau.   


Russell Kelley is the curator and moderator of this lecture series and was the curator of last winter’s series on the “Grands Châteaux of the Loire and Île de France.” He is the author of The Making of Paris: The Story of How Paris Evolved from a Fishing Village into the World’s Most Beautiful City (Lyons Press, 2021), and has lived in Paris for 30 years.


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This program is presented in partnership with the Alliance Française Miami Metro with communication support from the Federation of Alliances Françaises USA, the French Heritage Society, the Historic Gardens Foundation, WICE, and The Garden Conservancy.

Through our Entrée Libre initiative, free admission to this program is offered to students enrolled in French Studies in universities and French schools in Chicago and the Midwest.