NCMA Recommends: The Garden Parasol

Frederick Carl Frieseke, The Garden Parasol, 1910, oil on canvas, 57 1/8 x 77 in., Purchased with funds from the State of North Carolina, 1973, and dedicated in memory of Moussa M. Domit, director of the North Carolina Museum of Art (1974—1980), by the NCMA Board of Trustees

When asked his artistic goals, Frederick Frieseke declared, “it is sunshine, flowers in sunshine; girls in sunshine; the nude in sunshine.” The emphasis upon light marks Frieseke as a disciple of the impressionists. However, in contrast to the impressionists, he focused his attention not on landscape but on the female figure and the private lives of women.

The Garden Parasol evokes the serene pleasure of a summer in the French countryside. The setting is the garden of the Friesekes’ house at Giverny, close to the home and gardens of the venerable impressionist painter Claude Monet. The seated woman is the artist’s wife, Sadie, and the garden was her special creation. Frieseke depicts her as a cultivated woman of leisure whose reading is interrupted by the arrival of a visitor–or visitors–for it is our approach that distracts Sadie from her book and prompts her to fix us with a questioning stare. Whatever small drama might arise from so genteel an encounter is fully upstaged by the vibrancy of the garden, and especially by the Japanese parasol that spices the scene with swirling colors.

Art in Bloom Connection

Pim van den Akker, a Dutch master florist, has said that it is easy to create a beautiful flower arrangement: your medium is already beautiful. More challenging is to create floral art, to make your audience feel the beauty, or longing, or other emotion in your work. This was the primary focus of my recent studies to earn my European Master’s Certification.Terry Godfrey, Art in Bloom floral designer

Global Connection

Take a virtual tour of the Kew Gardens in London. Can you spot any plants that we have in the Museum Park? (Hint: Keep an eye out for water lilies, which can be found in the reflecting pools outside West Building.)

Audio Description

The recording below is an audio description of Garden Parasol. Audio description is narration for individuals who are blind or have low vision. It is a means to inform them about visual content essential for comprehension.

Gardens in Film

Gardens can serve as a haven or an escape, can teach us lessons about nature and life, and can provide sustenance and empower a community.–Maria Lopez, Manager of Film and Lecture Programs

– Curator’s choice from John Coffey, Deputy Director for Research, the Jim and Betty Becher Curator of American and Modern Art, and Curator of Judaic Art: Smiles of a Summer Night (1955). Director: Ingmar Bergman. Rent on YouTube.

  – Enchanted April (1991). Director: Mike Newell. Four women go on holiday in Italy and discover hope and beauty in their surroundings. Rent on iTunes, Amazon Prime, or YouTube.

  – This Beautiful Fantastic (2016). Director: Simon Aboud. A contemporary fairytale set against the backdrop of a beautiful garden in London. Watch free on YouTube.

  – Can You Dig This (2015). Director: Delila Vallot. Documentary that profiles urban gardeners in South Los Angeles. Rent on iTunes, Amazon Prime, or YouTube.


Mort Garson’s 1976 album, Mother Earth’s Plantasia, was meant to be played for plants as well as people. Garson, one of the first to compose with Moog synthesizers, is considered a founding father of electronic music. Listen to the album on Spotify.

Sonic artist Mileece translates the natural bioemissions of plants and their interaction with humans into harmonic soundscapes or “organic electronic music.” Learn more about Mileece’s process in the video.–Janette Hoffman, Acting Artistic Director and General Manager for the NCMA Amphitheater

Poetry and Short Story Connections

While The Garden Parasol offers a view of an early 20th-century woman at leisure, the turn of the century brought the emergence of more modern understandings of femininity. Head to NCMALearn to read a lyrical poem (and get ideas for writing your own) and a short story that challenges Victorian ideals.–Katherine White, Deputy Director

Family Activity

Click over to NCMALearn for some family activities, like creating your own sun-printed fabric, and listening to a podcast about Nobel winner Wangari Maathai, who planted trees across Kenya.–Courtney Klemens, Manager of Family Programs, Angie Faulk, Manager of Camps, and Emily Perreault, Pre-K Programs Educator

Coloring Page

Color your own The Garden Parasol using our printable PDF. Download it, print it, and then tag us in your creation on social media @ncartmuseum.

Educational Lesson Plan

Invite students to decorate paper lanterns inspired by The Garden Parasol. Students will read and think about summer gardens and participate in a lantern walk through this NCMALearn lesson plan.–Emily Perreault, Pre-K Programs Educator

Phone Wallpaper

Looking for a dose of art between scrolling  and jumping on a conference call? We created phone wallpapers featuring works of art from the NCMA’s collection and views of the Museum Park. Save to your phone and change your wallpaper in your settings. See the wallpapers here.

Mindful Museum: Grounding with 5, 4, 3, 2, 1

The Garden Parasol is a feast for the eyes. This week’s mindfulness exercise activates the other senses, as well, in a strategy you can use at any time you feel overwhelmed.–Michelle Harrell, Director of Education

In the Garden, on the Blog

Is sipping tea in a frilly white dress under a glorious parasol not really your style? If your idea of creative expression is digging up dirt, this Circa post by Rachel Woods, curator of horticulture and sustainability at the NCMA, will have you rethinking ways to improve your backyard retreat.

Getting Started with Urban Gardening

One of the pleasures a garden can provide is the satisfaction of growing your own food. Bring delicious fruits and vegetables from your yard to your table! Whether you have a large yard or just a patio to work with, here are several ways to create a productive garden.–Rachel Woods, Curator of Horticulture and Sustainability, NCMA 


Apr 24, 2020


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