One of the famous garden designer’s last works at The Frick Collection in New York is under threat
By Franky Kentish
Published February 5, 2015
Russell Page (1906-85) trained at the Slade in London before becoming a garden designer in 1928. He was the gardener to the very rich for many decades and was famously discreet. He is often referred to semi-jokingly as the most famous garden designer no one has ever heard of. But this could be about to change: his name is in the midst of a controversy among the cultural elite in New York and, with ideal timing, his first retrospective in this country opens in March at the Garden Museum.
The Frick Collection, once the Gilded Age residence of industrialist Henry Clay Frick in Manhattan, houses an extraordinary collection of Old Master paintings.
The collection has grown since the museum opened in 1935 and the Frick is looking to expand. The plan is to build over a garden designed by Page in 1977, one of his last projects. The intimate plot features a lily pond with fountain, low hedges, trees and planting. It is a moment of serenity in the jostle of New York and, as the Frick’s website explains, “is designed to be viewed – from the street or through the windows of the reception hall – like an Impressionist painting”.
Opposition has been swiftly mobilised and an online petition against the proposed demolition has received more than 3,500 signatures. Whether the Garden Museum exhibition, which brings together Page’s paintings, photos and drawings, will influence the outcome remains to be seen, but it would be a shame if the Frick garden was demolished just as the name Russell Page became known.