André Le Nôtre was born into a family of talented gardeners. His father, Jean Le Nôtre, was the head gardener of King Louis XIII at the Tuileries Gardens. André overtook his father’s position of head gardener on June 26, 1637.
He was responsible for the areas of the gardens closest to the palace, including the Orangery which was built by Simon Bouchard. He was appointed “draughtsman of plants and terraces” for Anne of Austria in 1643 and in 1645-1646 he worked on the modernization of the gardens of the Chateau de Fontainebleau.
Le Nôtre expressed himself purely through his garden creations, seldom writing down his ideas and approaches to gardening. He even became a trusted advisor to King Louis XIV.
Le Nôtre’s first major garden design was undertaken for Nicolas Fouquet-Louis XIV’s Superintendent of Finance. Foquet started his work on the Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte in 1657 employing the architect Louis Le Vau, Charles Le Brun (painter) and André Le Nôtre. The three worked in partnership, with Le Nôtre laying out a grand, symmetrical arrangement of pools, parterres and gravel walks.
Le Notre and Le Vau exploited the alternating levels across the site, in order to make the canal visible from the house and ultimately employed forced perspective to make the grotto seem closer than it actually was. The gardens were completed by 1661.
Le Nôtre was working for Louis XIV, 1661, in order to build and enhance the garden and pristine parks of the Chateau de Versailles. He also put forth the radiating city plan of Versailles, which included the largest avenue up to that point in time, throughout Europe.
Le Nôtre continued the main avenue, the Avenue de Paris, which was later referred to as the Champs-Elysees, for as far as the eye could see. Benjamin Franklin Parkway, in Philadelphia, is based upon Le Nôtre’s creation.
Other Notable Garden Designs By Le Nôtre
Le Nôtre, in 1661, was also working on the Palace of Fonatinebleau Gardens. Le Nôtre extended the primary axis of the gardens westward, creating the avenue that would become Champs-Elysees.
Le Nôtre, in 1662, provided designs for Greenwich Park in London for Charles II of England and in 1670 Le Notre conceived a project for the Castle of Racconigi in Italy. Additionally, he remodeled the gardens of Venaria Reale, near Turin. Le Nôtre’s genius was in demand throughout the capitals of Europe and his students and collaborators, working in Germany, Austria and Spain, spread his style of garden and landscape planning design across the continent, a fitting homage to a green-thumbed genius.
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