Roberto Burle Marx

Sharon Lorenzo explores the New York Botanical Garden.

NY Botanical Garden, 2019

This bird’s eye view shows the walking paths and peripheral gardens at the New York Botanical Garden where the lucky visitor is in for a treat to experience the biomorphic synthesis in the art and garden design of this gifted Brazilian creator, Roberto Burle Marx. Noted professor of Latin American art, Edward Sullivan, from the faculty of the Institute of Fine Arts, NYU, stated in his catalog essay that Roberto was a peripatetic artist always restless with desire for seamless creativity on many fronts.[i] Trained as a visual artist, he became an internationally renowned leader in landscape architecture in Brazil and beyond. From the walkways of Rio to the boulevards of Biscayne Bay in Florida, he embraced his passion for geometric abstraction and how it could mix with some of the 40,000 acknowledged species of his native country.

Roberto Burle Marx, 1974, Photo by Luiz Knud Correia de Araujo

This installation at NYBG was supervised by one of Marx’s proteges, Raymond Jungles, who met Roberto in Miami, where they had a lasting friendship.  Jungles has carried out his guiding principles of ecology and botanical preservation in many garden designs in the Bahamas, Mexico, and throughout the United States. This homage to his master is a fusion of nature, science, art and the indigenous environment of native species. Touring the installation at the conservatory as well as the library and art gallery, one can experience all three aspects of Roberto’s legacy: his passionate artistic talent, his embrace of Brazilian native species and his lyrical garden design.

The current director of the New York Botanical Garden was recruited from a career in American Art and collections management at the Metropolitan Museum in 2018. Carrie Rebora Barrett calls Roberto the “Picasso of landscape design”. She had the opportunity to visit his home in the rolling hills outside of Rio de Janeiro where 40 acres express his passion for art, design and his native flora.  Known as the Sitio, during his lifetime it was a salon for visiting architects, painters, scientists, poets and musicians with whom he enjoyed festivals and symposia. Many recall that he was always the life of the party.[ii]

Douglas Daly, director of Systematic Botany at the Gardens, reminds us in his catalog essay that Brazil’s landmass exceeds that of the entire United States from coast to coast, and has three distinct bio systems known as Cerrado, Amazonia and Mata Atlantica. All three host 40,000 vascular plants from forests to savannas and shrublands. The country itself is named after the brazilwood tree (paubrazilia echinata) which has a wood with a striking purple tone.[iii]

Roberto Burle Marx, Acrylic on canvas, 1970. Private Collection

NY Botanical Garden, Conservatory Path. 2019

A trolley connects the three centers of this exhibition with an outdoor restaurant and gift shop en route. This is an ideal venue for a vacation day to be enjoyed by all ages.

Roof Garden, Banco Safra, Brazil

Vargem  Grande Farm, Brazil


New York Botanical Garden. Brazilian Modern: The Living Art of Roberto Burle Marx – June 8- September 29, 2019

New York Botanical Gardens: 2900 Southern Blvd. Bronx, NY 10458





[i] Edward Sullivan, Roberto Burle Marx, A Total Work of Art, NY Botanical Garden, p. 11, 2019.

[ii] Ibid, p. 52.

[iii] Douglas C. Daly, Roberto Burle Marx and Brazilian Plant Diversity, NY Botanical Garden, p, 61, 2019.