Contemporary Art Market: Garden painters find fertile outlet for their exhibits: Artists reflecting the British passion for gardening are showing successfully at two galleries in London

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The Independent Online
THE BRITISH passion for gardening has found an artistic outlet in London this month. Two simultaneous exhibitions by garden painters, Judith Rothchild and Liz Butler, at the Francis Kyle Gallery at Maddox Street in central London, were virtually sold out within their first 10 days.

David Suff's garden pictures at the Piccadilly Gallery in Cork Street are not finding buyers so easily but the show, 'Dreams and Responsibilities', only opened last Tuesday - a week later than Kyle's.

Gallery proprietors' tastes are always reflected in their shows but Kyle manages to put an exceptionally strong personal stamp on his business. His artists are always very strong on traditional technique, especially draughtsmanship, and, usually, relatively unknown. Even after exhibitions at the Kyle Gallery, they seem to remain unknown - though it has a faithful clientele and many exhibitions are sold out.

Judith Rothchild, an American artist who lives in the Languedoc region of France, is having her third show at the gallery. There are three kinds of pictures in this show: still lives of flowers and fruit, close-up details of garden borders and landscapes; the last, in my view, are the least interesting though there is a splendid distant view of the Madeira coast seen through the twisting trellis of a vineyard, which costs pounds 1,725 and is still unsold.

Her flower arrangements are carefully composed; she likes to incorporate old pottery jugs and makes the most of the textures of their green, yellow and brown glazes. She also drapes highly coloured textiles round her flower arrangements to vivid affect. The prices follow the size of the works, but don't vary much; the lowest is pounds 1,245 and the highest pounds 2,925. More than 80 per cent of her pictures are sold.

Liz Butler makes miniature watercolours of gardens; the average size is 5cms by 9cms. They are very faithful, almost photographic, but characterised by a quirky choice of views. She likes corners and secret vistas. Like many other contemporary garden artists, she loves topiary, but she also likes ivy, water and garden benches and makes dramatic use of sunlight and shadow. Her watercolours range from pounds 695 to pounds 945 and about 70 per cent have found buyers.

David Suff's gardens at the Piccadilly Gallery are also strong on topiary - and other trees, rocks and bushes in rounded, impossible shapes. He is dreaming about nature, not reporting on it like the Kyle artists. Much of his vegetation is delightful invention, though it looks as if it could be true. For instance, his Gift Tree has a candle, a lantern, a Union Jack and three apples suspended in its olive-like branches ( pounds 1,350).

He has developed a highly personal technique, working on paper in coloured pencil. By using sets of six dozen coloured pencils from three different manufacturers, sometimes in five or six layers, he can achieve extremely subtle gradations of tone. The smaller, 10in by 10in, pictures start at pounds 1,350 while those around 3ft by 3ft, are priced at pounds 5,000.

(Photographs omitted)