(BRITISH, 1925–2006)

Four Shades, 1994
elm, sycamore, pine and basswood trees, Kentucky bluegrass sod and topsoil
840 x 840 inches, variable height
Laumeier Sculpture Park Commission, with funds from Aurelia and George Schlapp

Ian Hamilton Finlay’s Four Shades, 1994, is a way of seeing nature through art. Using elm, sycamore, pine and basswood trees planted on a circular mound, this earthwork is a visual translation of a quote from the classical Roman poet Virgil, a literal rendition of the “four shades” described in his poem Georgic IV, written in 29 B.C.E. This “arrangement” provides a subtle and mysterious haven for rest and contemplation within the Park grounds that will transform over time by way of the changing seasons and the growth and maturation of the trees.

Taking what he calls the classical approach to improving nature through human manipulation, this thoughtfully constructed garden also demonstrates Finlay’s interest in recreating the delicate distinction between the designed and the wild. This earthwork stems from the British tradition of the poet’s garden and illustrates the artist’s preoccupation with the relationship between culture and nature, using literature by way of sculpture.

Sculpture Interaction Guideline: Sit, But Do Not Climb


Ian Hamilton Finlay was born in Nassau, the Bahamas, in 1925. His artistic production was unique for encompassing a variety of different media and discourses. Finlay received the Scottish Horticultural Medal from the Royal Caledonian Horticultural Society in 2002 and the Scottish Arts Council Creative Scotland Award in 2003. He exhibited nationally and internationally at places including the McMaster Museum of Art, Hamilton, Ontario; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; the National Maritime Museum and the Tate Britain, London; the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York; and the Fukuoka Art Museum, Japan. Although Finlay had gained a considerable international reputation through numerous exhibitions abroad, he never traveled away from his home. His solo exhibition, Icons and Proposals, was organized by Laumeier in 1994.

Visit www.ianhamiltonfinlay.com for more information.