The Dream Garden

One of the greatest works of art in Philadelphia can be found inside the Curtis Publishing Building. I found it by chance one day as I stumbled around looking for a testing center within the building.

Entitled "The Dream Garden," it is a mosaic-style mural made of over 100,000 hand-blown pieces of glass in over 260 color tones.

Based on a painting originally created by artist and Philadelphia native Maxfield Parrish, the mosaic project was not without controversy, skeptics, and disappointments.
Between the lines of Parrish’s correspondence however, can be detected a sense of supreme disappointment in the mosaic’s color. Despite Tiffany having used 260 different shades of colored tesserae, carefully transcribed from Parrish’s original painting, The Dream Garden mosaic did not achieve the visual illusion that the painter had wanted to convey.

Nonetheless, the artwork stands as a quiet, understated monument to tranquility. The experience of "finding" it for the first time as it exists, tucked amid the busy streets around Washington Square, nearly forgotten, is perhaps the most magical part of the mural.

The composition of The Dream Garden was, in fact, inspired by a real garden that Parrish had recreated at his summer home, The Oaks, in the artists’ colony of Cornish, New Hampshire. There, Parrish envisioned the creation of fantastical spaces where a visitor would chance upon places of tremendous beauty and solitude, improved by careful placement of foliage and flowers, large classical urns and vases, reflecting pools and fountains, walkways and steps. During a visit to The Oaks, Parrish told Bok that what he had in his “mind’s eye” was a dream garden—a passionate disclosure that Bok orchestrated into an artificial reality.

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