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Made famous by Claude Monet’s impressionist paintings, Giverny is a village 50 miles North West from Paris in a small town in Normandy, in the Seine Valley. I still remember the first time I saw “Water Lilies.” Much like Giverny itself, the painting was breath-taking, in grandeur, detailing and sheer beauty. The Giverny house and gardens where Monet stayed was the inspiration for this painting and many others. Giverny as the home of Monet therefore played a crucial role in his contribution toward the Impressionist era.
After Monet’s death in 1926, his son Michel who inherited the house and garden of Giverny did not live there and Monet’s step-daughter Blanche took care of the property. Unfortunately after the Second World War the house and garden were neglected. The famed artist’s property at Giverny (house and gardens) was left by his son to the Académie des Beaux-Arts, one of the five academies of the ‘Institut de France’ in 1966. It was opened to the public in 1980 after major restoration work was completed. The house is an extremely popular tourist destination, particularly in the summer when the flowers are in bloom. The village has another major attraction in the form of the ‘Museum of Impressionism’.
The restoration began in 1976 and the garden opened to the public in 1980. It is currently open seven months a year and receives approximately 500,000 visitors. In order to keep people from mistakenly trampling any of the delicate plants on display and growing in the garden, the inner alleys of the garden are kept closed. Visitors can, however, walk on the side alleys and can walk all around the garden to admire all its glory.
Monet first noticed the village of Giverny while looking out of a train window and was so enchanted by what he saw that he made up his mind to move there and rented a house and the area surrounding it. After renting for 7 years, in 1890 he had enough money to buy it all outright and set out to create the magnificent gardens he wanted to paint.
Monet would buy plants with the intention of painting them. One of the best examples of this are the blue water lilies that he bought from Latour Mariac who in 1889 created the first hybrid of a coloured water lily and obtained a flower.
Some of Monet’s most famous paintings were of his garden in Giverny, with archways of climbing plants entwined around coloured shrubs, and the water garden with its water lilies, wisterias and azaleas. This water garden was made by Monet; he added the Japanese bridge to the pond. He lived in the house with its famous pink crushed brick façade from 1883 until his death in 1926. Many family members of the Monet family are even buried in the village cemetery.
The two main parts of Monet’s garden in Giverny are a flower garden (Clos Normand) at the front of the house and a Japanese inspired water garden on the other side. These two parts contrast and complement one another.
The water pond that we see today was originally a much smaller pond which was dug to increase its size, despite protests from Monet’s neighbours for fear that his plants would poison the water. The pond was enlarged to its present day size. The water garden is full of asymmetries and curves and is inspired by the Japanese gardens that Monet knew from the prints he collected avidly. In this water garden you will find the famous Japanese bridge covered with wisterias, other smaller bridges, weeping willows, a bamboo wood and the famous nympheas which bloom during summer. The Japanese bridge in the garden was built by a local craftsman but by the time restoration work on the garden was completed, the bridge was too damaged to be saved. It was rebuilt by a firm from Vernon from beech wood.
The land is divided into flowerbeds that are of varying heights to create the illusion of volume that is so apparent in Monet’s paintings which seem to be bursting at the seams with life. The garden is full of fruit trees, ornamental trees, climbing roses, coloured annuals, daisies, poppies and many more varieties. Monet was known to mix simple flowers with the rarest varieties.
Monet did not like organized nor constrained gardens. He left flowers to grow freely and after years of staying at Giverny he developed a passion for botany and was always on the look-out for rare varieties. Monet would find his inspiration in this water garden for more than twenty years.
He was known to always look for great reflections in water, which he would then depict in his beautiful paintings. He believed that ,“a kind of inverted world transfigured by the liquid element goes into my garden.”
Taking pictures is permitted in the garden, but only from the walkways. Picnics are forbidden. Dogs and other pets are not admitted.
• Tickets bought online
You can now avoid the queue and buy your tickets online at the following rates:
o Normal fare and seniors: 9.50 euros
o Children over 7 and students: 6.50 euros
o Disabled: 5.50 euros
• Tickets bought onsite
Tickets are on sale at Giverny Individual Entrance at the following rates:
o Normal fare and seniors: 9.00 euros
o Children under 7: free of charge
o Children and students: 5.00 euros
o Disabled: 4.00 euros
• Duration :1 hour 15
• Tours are given in English, French and German
• Rates admission tickets included:
1 to 3 persons: 90 euros for the party.
4 to 10 persons: 25 euros per person.
11 to 19 persons: 170 euros + 9.00 euros/person.
• No queue
• By appointment only
Note: There is no guided tour possible without appointment.
photo credits Difalcone