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Hugh Goldwin Rivière | The garden of Eden, 1901

Hugh Goldwin Rivière (British painter, 1869-1956) first exhibited The Garden of Eden at the Royal Academy in 1901.

Born in Bromley in Kent, Rivière was the son of Royal Academy member, Briton Rivière. H.G. Rivière’s paintings fall into two main subject categories: historical or legendary, and contemporary scenes of everyday life and portraits.
Best known as a portrait artist, the scene of Victorian sentimentality is somewhat unique although a watercolour replica does exist and is held in a private collection.

The Garden of Eden depicts a young couple walking through Kensington Gardens by Lancaster Gate on a rainy day.
It is a touching scene of two otherwise insignificant people made significant by the love they bear each other.
Their fixed gazes show the depth of their affection that converts, for them, the dreariness of the chilly city into paradise; a transformation underscored by the title’s biblical reference to the paradise of Eden.

The pair are isolated from the bustling realm of the city cabs by the park railings and from the natural world by the low-level boundary rail.
This isolation highlights that their respite from busy urban life is man-made and fleeting.
The pleasing grey and blue tones conveying the scene’s light and atmosphere help the viewer to understand how the otherwise wintry environment might seem beautiful to a couple so overcome with love.

The couple portrayed in The Garden of Eden is Beatrice Langdon-Davies, Rivière’s sister-in-law, and her fiancé Percy Silley, an architect.
The pair were closely chaperoned during the making of the work and were married not long after it was completed.