André Le Nôtre was a landscape architect and the gardener of King Louis XIV of France. Unlike any gardener you might think of today, Le Nôtre was a designer who tackled huge design projects such as the construction of the park of the Palace of Versailles. He also extended the vista from the Tuileries, which would later become the Champs-Élysées.
Born in Paris, Le Nôtre was destined for his career. As the son and grandson of gardeners who were responsible for the gardens at the palace of the Tuileries, he was trained from an early age of all the aspects of gardening. As a youth, Le Nôtre studied painting under Simon Voulet, and also studied architect Francois Mansart. This obsession with art and architecture opened Le Nôtre’s imagination to the possibilities of landscape architecture.
Le Nôtre didn’t start his career as a gardener until he was 40 years old, when he succeeded his father as chief gardener of the Tuileries. It was then when he began to apply all of the knowledge he has amassed over the years. But fame would elude Le Nôtre until 1955, when his project of the gardens of château de Vaux-le-Vicomte – a collaboration with architects Louis Le Vau and Charles Le Brun – shot him to superstardom.
What Le Nôtre achieved – an incredible visual harmony between the chateau and garden complex – was unlike anything anyone had ever seen. Soon it would influence landscaping for decades to come. He worked on many projects for King Louis XIV, including many gardens and parks, including Chantilly, Chateau Fontainebleau, Racconigi, Saint-Cloud, Saint-Germain-en-Laye and St. James's Park.
But Le Nôtre is undeniably most famous for the work he did for the Palace of Versailles – not only did he rehabilitate the gardens, but composed the plan that would lay the groundwork for the largest avenue in Europe at the time, the Avenue de Paris. The Axe Historique would be virtually nonexistent today if not for Le Nôtre ‘s expansion of the Tuileries. In short, Le Nôtre is responsible for some of the most significant landscape adjustments to France to this day.
For all of his incredible work, Le Nôtre was ennobled by the King in 1675. After retiring in 1693, Le Nôtre remained in name as the chief gardener of King Louis XIV, until his death in 1700.