The History of the Jardin Majorelle

Jacques Majorelle’s workshop around 1931

Jacques Majorelle used to say: “The painter has the modesty to regard this enclosure of floral verdure as his most beautiful work.” He referred to the garden as “ vast splendours whose harmony I have orchestrated… This garden is a momentous task, to which I give myself entirely. It will take my last years from me and I will fall, exhausted, under its branches, after having given it all my love.”

 

Terrace of the studio

The fame of Jacques Majorelle’s garden grew, and even surpassed that of his paintings.

The more the artist travelled, the more he enjoyed gardening; he began to bring plants from around the world and to communicate internationally with people who shared his passion for botany. He acquired hundreds of rare varieties of trees and plants: cacti, palm trees, bamboo, coconut palms, thujas, weeping willows, carob trees, jasmine, agaves, white water lilies, datura, cypress, bougainvilleas, and ferns. As in the composition of a painting, Majorelle arranged the species between light and shadow around a long central basin and along irregular, meandering walkways with curved, painted walls.

The colours that Jacques Majorelle began to use in 1937 transformed his garden into an even more fascinating masterpiece. He first painted the facade of his studio, then all of his property including gates, pergolas, pots and the various buildings in a scheme of bold and brilliant primary colors, one of which would later be known as “Majorelle blue”, an ultramarine, cobalt blue, “evoking Africa”. Strong, deep, intense, it accentuates the green of the leaves and makes them sing.

Aerial view of the workshop

Such luminous images are accompanied by an enchanting and soothing acoustic universe far from the rumble of the outside world. As the evening draws in, one is entranced by the relaxing croaking of frogs, the subtle chirping of a thousand and one birds – such as the bulbuls or oriental nightingales and Eurasian collared doves - that have settled in the garden, the relaxing murmur of the fountains and the rustling of the leaves in the lightest breeze…

When the Jardin Majorelle opened to the public in 1947, its fame was already well-established. At the end of his life, after having been forced to subdivide it on several occasions, Jacques Majorelle had to sell what remained. The garden, abandoned, fell into disrepair.

Jacques Majorelle in his garden, circ. 1940.