For those of you who are in love with art, especially sculpture and paintings, Grounds for Sculpture nestled in Hamilton, NJ offers a treasure trove of lovely sculptures recreated based on the famous paintings by Monet, Manet, Matisse and others. Seward Johnson, age 83, is an American sculptor and philanthropist who has dedicated his career to public art is the founder of the Grounds for Sculpture which spans 42 acres of a beautiful park setting. His life-like bronze and monumental figures are familiar sights throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia. This park exhibit includes works from such notable artists as Clement Meadmore, Anthony Caro, Beverly Pepper, George Segal, and Isaac Witkin as well.
The collections introduced in Grounds for Sculpture are unique in that Seward Johnson depicts not only every day scenes of life, but he places these figures in a pastoral and completely natural wooded setting. You wander into a scene unexpectedly as you walk through the 42 acre park. Some unknown couple may be found smooching on the ground or a nearby garden arch, a gentleman may be taking a summer siesta on a park bench or children may be scampering about in play or engaged in some activity. Then there are those pieces that are taken out from the scenes of famous paintings by Monet, such as “Terrace at Sainte Addresse” which I can’t get enough of each time I visit. You can place yourself in the setting and feel transported in time and be a part of Monet’s fabulous landscape. The scene has a couple cozily engaged in conversation with a boat in the background on a lazy river, while an elderly couple watches their romanctic interlude. Behind them all is an artist (possibly Monet) hiding behind some bushes painting the scene. Another one of Monet’s is a mixture of Monet’s “On Poppied Hill” and “Woman with a Parasol” combined in one sculpture. There is Renoir’s “Luncheon of the Boating Party” recreated in sculpture. There is Manet’s “Le Dejeuner Sur L’Herbe” which you stumble onto while exploring a small path in the woods and it takes you by complete surprise as if you are intruding on a very intimate scene. Nothing is obvious except for Monet’s bridge and Lily pond recreated in a lovely garden setting next to their famous Rats upscale restaurant. A surprisingly large head floats on the water surrounded by lilies and mists with the bridge in the background.
However, what should not be missed is Seward Johnson’s exhibition which opened on May 4, 2014 and remains at Grounds for Sculpture for a limited time till September 21, 2014. It is one of the largest exhibitions of sculpture which highlights the sculpture “Forever Marilyn” and is a treat to behold. She stands with a myriad of large trees behind her while everyone enjoys posing by her shapely legs and scandalously lovely pose baring her all too beautiful body. This sculpture of Marilyn Monroe which stands 26 ft high, weighs 34,000 pounds and is created out of painted stainless steel and aluminum stood in Chicago and Palm Springs for several years and is now moved to Grounds for Sculpture. She is the iconic Marilyn Monroe with her dress flowing upwards from the movie “The Seven Year Itch”. Standing under her dress in a wooded setting was an incredible feeling of awe. She is larger than life with a smile that is reflective of her fun nature. Other larger than life sculptures at Grounds for Sculpture are the massive ones of Seward Johnson’s cast bronze ‘Day Dream’ is inspired by Henri Matisse’s (1869 – 1954) famous painting, ‘Dance’ and the nude from Manet’s “Olympia” which cannot be appreciated unless seen in person. Lincoln stands with an ordinary passerby holding the Gettysburg Address in the “Return Visit” which must be as tall as “Forever Marilyn”.
In an enclosed area, we have several lovely sculptures of a smaller scale but all too familiar such as “The Nature of Obsession” based on Vermeer’s “Girl With the Pearl Earring”, “Mona Lisa” and “Unconditional Surrender”. All iconic images and all placed in a way that you can interact with them and be a part of their environment. If that is not enough to impress, I loved watching all the peacocks prancing about proudly on the grounds. They seem very comfortable with people around them and are not threatened by them or threatening. It is wonderful to see such beauty scattered throughout nature and to feel as if one can be a part of the art, not just looking at it from the outside as a viewer or spectator. I have shared some links for you to enjoy, but if you have any questions for me please feel free to contact me. Thanks for sharing in the beauty of this experience at Grounds for Sculpture at Hamilton, NJ.