The Potting Shed
From the Original watercolor on paper, 24 ” by 18 ”, 1983
Note: Please click on closeups for detailed images.
When I returned to Boston from Belgium in 1981, I began a series of greenhouse interiors in the greenhouses at Wellesley college and learned through the Mass Horticulture Society about a nearby estate that sometimes opened its greenhouse doors to the public with permission. This estate was the Hunnewell estate, now called The Walter Hunnewell Arboretum , and was very near to Wellesley College. As soon as I saw the greenhouses I fell in love with them and immediately began to commute there from Boston. I continued to paint there for a period of about three years.
They were a system of greenhouses dating from the nineteenth century, with a unique blend of grand style and delicate intimacy. There were about five different glasshouses, and I painted and sketched in all of them except for one which housed a male Siamese cat that endlessly patrolled the vines of sweet Muscat grapes. All of these greenhouses were intriguing to work in. The Hunnewell family and the estate gardeners were a wonderful, interesting and welcoming community to work near, and were very generous and helpful always. Our beloved Siamese cat, which we had for almost fifteen years, before losing her to an early frost was a gift from the head gardener.
I worked on this piece during bright overcast days for many months, captivated and intrigued by the soft light falling and transforming the many worlds within worlds that exist within a greenhouse.
I loved the evocative shapes and colors of the many exotic orchids, the water’s soft silvery reflected light, and the rich patterns created by diffused dappled light on the shoots and leaves of oxalis and young ferns growing in the dark shadows beneath the benches that lead into the potting shed where the light falling through the potting shed’s bright glowing window, like the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, transformed the tools and signs of working with plants into a place of magic and mystery.
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