Art and Design KS3: Gertrude Jekyll and garden design

Until the 1870s, the only way women could become artists was by training as men had done.

In the 1870s a style of art known as Impressionism made it easier for people without formal training to paint.

Historian Amanda Vickery explains how Gertrude Jekyll (1843-1932) used an impressionistic style to design gardens and achieved success and fame for it.

Jekyll started as a painter, but suffered from short-sightedness so had to find another form of art.

The Arts and Crafts movement was popular at the time of the Industrial Revolution and a reaction to the increase in factory-made goods: people wanted attractive, hand-made and original objects.

Jekyll became a garden designer at a time when people wanted to see more craft and art in every day settings.

Jekyll designed gardens in a non-traditional way: she made them to look like paintings instead of the highly formal style of the time.

Jekyll's work encouraged home-owners to experiment with different colours in their own gardens.

Thanks to her influence, gardens began to be seen as works of art in themselves: alive and three-dimensional, and yet just as valid as those hanging on gallery walls.

This clip is from the series The Britain That Women Made.

Teacher Notes

This could be used in lessons on relevant key historical concepts such as change and continuity and causation, or relevant historical periods like the Industrial Revolution and the social, political and economic change of the 18th century.

Students could be encouraged to discuss the barriers women faced as artists.

What were the factors which helped Jekyll become successful?

Consider the importance of her determination, her education, her personal health and the popular tastes in art at the time.

Which of these factors was most important in her success?

Curriculum Notes

This clip is suitable for teaching Art and Design and History at Key Stage 3 and Third Level.