Quick! What has life-sized statues of people staged to look like living Impressionist paintings? Need another hint? Where on the East coast can you find an Impressionist oasis where you can walk into Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party and examine what everyone is eating? Still need another hint? Where can you find a Fantasy of Venus sculpture hidden in a shaded tree alcove, complete with water-misters designed to create a fantasy world of swirling mists around a glowing Venus? Okay… one more hint! Where can you find Sculptures nestled on manicured Grounds?
Get it? Grounds? Sculptures? I apologize.
Located in Hamilton, New Jersey – the Grounds for Sculpture is a living art museum you experience outdoors. Unironically, the Garden State hosts an amazing 42 acre art garden / arboretum complete with paved and unpaved trails, indoor museum, tours, exhibits, and fine dining. The Grounds for Sculpture is a very unique experience that blends man-made art nestled in natural settings. You are invited to engage with the art, explore the gardens, and discover secret paths that lead to more art.
It is an Instagrammers’ paradise.
Art, art, and more art.
The fantastical outdoor museum and garden is named Grounds for Sculpture and spans 42 acres, is nestled along a lake, and boasts an amazing restaurant named Rats.
Imagine strolling along shady trails looking at various art forms nestled in amongst the bushes, or staged in a clearing. Then you find a tiny trail that leads into a shady glen. If you venture off trail you find yourself in a recreated painting using painted sculpture stages so perfectly that it recreates the famous painting. You get to walk into a painting, even becoming part of the scenery.
Such is the magic of Grounds for Sculpture. I fell in love when I accidentally discovered Manet’s Le Déjeuner sur l’herbepainting recreated as a 3D sculpture ‘Dejeneur Deja Vu‘. I strolled past the lady’s discarded dress, and then past the picnickers until I was able to walk up and examine the row boat in the background.
I turned around and was able to enjoy the ‘painting’ from the reverse side, with an eerie sense that I was very much in the proverbial Looking Glass.
Renoir, Monet and Manet paintings are a popular inspiration for many of the sculptures created for the Grounds. Their soft, muted colors melt into the lush gardens and make the entire experience more dreamy and surreal by their romanticized coloring.
When I’m asked by friends what the Grounds for Sculpture is like, my answer tends to come out as a weird jumble of answers: Part art museum, part art exhibit, part “is that a real person over there?,” part arboretum, part nature trail, all mixed up with tons of whimsy, beauty, and charm. All in all, it is a full day of amazing experiences.
It is a living, outdoor art museum that utilizes natural settings to create an immersive artistic experiences. There are no velvet ropes here! You can feel the metal and stone used to create the sculptures. You can stroll in the sunshines, or meader down shady trails. But no matter where you roam, you are immersed in an artistic endeavor.
That Sculpture Just Moved
One of the unexpected ‘games’ that came up during my visit was seeing if that realistic statue was a real person. Most ended up as statues, with a few exceptions. At one point, I was certain I was about to discover a hidden statue located off-trail, under a tree, by a babbling brook. What more perfect place to put a sculpture? So when the sculpture turned his head and blinked at me, I squealed and then erupted in laughter. We both chuckled as we simultaneously realized what happened.
Another time I was admiring the realism of a duck that was standing one-legged on the lip of a waterfall. Until the duck moved and I found myself laughing again.
Rats – french inspired cuisine
On this day, my friends and I planned to enjoy lunch at Rats, the famous on-site restaurant that doesn’t allow any cats, proffers amazing food, and unbeatable ambiance. As their page states: “Rat’s Restaurant is designed to make guests feel like they have stepped back in time to Claude Monet’s beloved town of Giverny…”
Rats is another blend of visual experiences that blend in with your dining experience. The entire location has a mystical look with colored fish slipping slowly along the shallow edges of a green-water lake. The famous Monet bridge that crosses over the lake and is a popular engagement location. We were told to keep an eye out for it as we enjoyed our lunch. Sadly, no one received a proposal during our dining experience.
If you can’t make Rats, there are a few other dining options including cafe’s located on site. There is even a unique option to purchase a picnic which you can enjoy on the Grounds. Please note that you can’t bring food and drink into the grounds, but you can purchase a picnic service from the Grounds.
Enjoy these amazing views:
Things to know for your visit
As the weather improves, the popularity of the gardens increase. Depending on what time of year you decide to visit, you may find yourself purchasing timed tickets.
This is primarily an outdoor experience. I recommend wearing sturdy shoes as some of the trails are just that, packed earth trails. There are paved trails, but there are also plenty of non-paved trails which invite you to explore the sculptures further. 😉 Strollers and wheelchairs will have plenty of paved trails to utilize.
Designed for engagement
The art is designed for engagement. Many of the pieces can be touched. Climbing is obviously not allowed. The entire garden invites you to explore trails and pathways – or to just meander as you desire.
Hi, I’m Patti. I work in the IT field and my favorite thing to do is reboot stuff. (Muahahaha!)
I love exploring the United States and luckily I enjoy driving. Which is a good thing since it would be hard to explore if I had to walk everywhere. I am usually exploring the states on a tight budget with limited vacation time. I try to make the most of my free time, and I may have a trick or two up my sleeve.
I’m a weird mix of over-planner and free-spirit wanderer. There’s no in between. I see weekends as play-time. Laundry is for Wednesday nights and dusting is never on my to-do list.
I love museums, learning new things, and just letting my curiosity take me to my next discovery.
To discover more about me, check out my About Me page.