Into the Garden Through an Artist’s Eyes

In his new book, celebrated painter Christian Peltenburg-Brechneff offers his unique perspective of private gardens around the world
Artwork by Christian Peltenburg-Brechneff
“Lunuganga, Bentota, Sri Lanka,” 1992, gouache on paper, 21 x 27 inches, private collection

Over the last three decades, artist Christian Peltenburg-Brechneff has traveled the world going into private gardens with his canvas and brushes to paint what he sees. The act conjures thoughts of Monet in Giverny, working on his water lilies, though Brechneff’s style is more in line with van Gogh’s with his intense, vibrant use of line and color.

Indeed designer Bunny Williams writes in the book’s foreword that when the artist was in Williams’s own garden painting, she “sometimes felt that Vincent van Gogh was looking over his shoulder and waving approval.”

Painting by artist Christian Peltenburg-Brechneff,
“Tim and Christian’s Garden, Whalebone Cove, CT,” 1992, gouache on paper, 14 x 11 inches, private collection
Painting by Christian Peltenburg-Brechneff
“Kandy Botanical Gardens, Sri Lanka,” 1991, gouache on paper, 14 x 11 inches, private collection

The most recent culmination of the artist’s travels is a new book, Into the Garden (G Arts, 2019), a collection of paintings from 28 gardens ranging from Sri Lanka and Greece to more local destinations like California and Connecticut (where the painter has a home). While a botanist’s high-resolution camera could perhaps better capture the anatomy of a garden, and a landscape architect’s site draw­ings could more readily convey the overall design, what Peltenburg-Brechneff offers in his paintings is the experience of being in gardens—the texture, style, and mood of each place.

On the Caribbean island of St. Martin, a garden set against distant aubergine moun­tains and a deep-blue ocean feels meditative and mysterious. In a Venetian courtyard, plants grow greedily and furiously in a deca­dent pile as if to keep from drowning. There’s a confident playfulness on display through­out, like watching a jazz pianist let loose on a keyboard. Readers will hope the artist isn’t finished going out on the road and into the garden just yet.

By Kirk Reed Forrester | Artwork from Into the Garden by Christian Peltenburg-Brechneff, copyright © 2019, published by G Arts,