The Old Deaf School Park on the corner of E. Town St. and Washington Ave. in downtown Columbus, is the site of a unique arts project. Georges Seurat's Famous post impressionist painting, Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, is created in topiary. It is the only topiary interpretation of a painting in existence. This "landscape of a painting of a landscape" consists of 54 topiary people, eight boats, three dogs, a monkey, a cat and a real pond. The largest figure is 12' tall.
The pond, representing the River Seine, was installed in 1989, along with the hills. Seurat would have sketched his scene from the top of the easterly hill. Stand left of the bronze plaque on the stone slab in the path, and you will see "the painting" as he saw it.
Topiary Park is a project of the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department. The concept came from artist James T. Mason who teaches sculpture at the Department's Cultural Arts Center. He designed, created and installed the metal frames as well as the living topiaries. Elaine Mason, initial topiarist and retired arts coordinator for the Department, trains city gardeners to trim the figures.
4 blocks south of East Broad Street and
1 block west of I-71.
480 East Town St. and Washington Avenue in the Old Deaf School Park.
Museum and Visitors Center at the park
In 1998 the Topiary Park Museum Shop/Visitors Center opened at the Town Street entrance to the Park. The chateau-style building (built with funding from Columbus Recreation & Parks, Motorists Insurance Companies and the Friends of the Topiary Park) houses restrooms, drinking fountains and the Topiary Park Museum Store is staffed by volunteers.
Furnished in period decor, the store offers garden related books and a few other merchandise items, specifically related to horticultural interests. It is open April through December. Call 614-645-0197 for hours. Proceeds from the Topiary Park Museum Shop provide funding for the park.
This video is also available for download and distribution on YouTube.
Georges-Pierre Seurat (December 2, 1859 – March 29, 1891) was a French painter and the founder of Neo-impressionism.
Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte is Georges-Pierre Seurat's most famous work, and is an example of pointillism that is widely considered to be one of the most remarkable paintings of the 19th century, belonging to the Post-Impressionism period.
Seurat spent two years painting this picture, concentrating painstakingly on the landscape of the park before focusing on the people; always their shapes, never their personalities. Individuals did not interest him, only their formal elegance. There is no untidiness in Seurat; all is beautifully balanced. The park was quite a noisy place: a man blows his bugle, children run around, there are dogs. Yet the impression we receive is of silence, of control, of nothing disordered. I think it is this that makes La Grande Jatte so moving to us who live in such a disordered world: Seurat's control. There is an intellectual clarity here that sets him free to paint this small park with an astonishing poetry. Even if the people in the park are pairs or groups, they still seem alone in their concision of form - alone but not lonely. No figure encroaches on another's space: all coexist in peace.
The Old Deaf School
In 1829 the State of Ohio purchased land for $300 from one of Columbus' original founders, Lyne Starling, and in 1834 erected the first Deaf School on the Park's site. The second school building, designed by George Bellows, Sr., father of the famous painter, was built in 1869. This building burned down in 1981.
A third Deaf School Building, erected in 1899, is in use today as offices. The new Deaf School is at 500 Morse Rd.