Monet’s Giverny Gardens: Impressions of Color

Monet’s Giverny Gardens: Impressions of Color
What better time to think of spring than right now—during the rainy gray days of Paris winter, and the added drama of a swirling, swashbuckling Seine. As the gray lingers on, fragrant blossoms and gardens alive with color are just a dream away. Monet’s passion—Giverny—is a particular favorite. Visiting his Normandy home is like stepping into one of his Impressionist paintings and gaining first-hand knowledge of his palette and the power of nature that inspired him. Some say Monet’s gardens were his greatest masterpiece. Certainly, they were his muse. His time in Giverny (1883– 1926) in the last part of his life was a true collaboration with a living, growing work of art and architecture. “I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers.” “The richness I achieve comes from Nature, the source of my inspiration.” “I’d like to paint as a bird sings.”  — Claude Monet Monet created a flower garden (Clos Normand) just outside his two-story pink house. This cottage garden is full of natural “brushstrokes”—with color-themed borders, fruit trees, and thousands of flowers, including tulips, irises, poppies, roses, sunflowers, dahlias, asters, peonies, foxgloves, and many more (depending on the season). Across the road, he designed a water garden with an arched Japanese bridge, azaleas, ferns, rhododendrons, bamboo, weeping willows, and a pond with waterlilies (nymphéas) offering layers of reflections. In both gardens, Monet placed the wild and cultivated together, the simple mixed with the rare. He was able in his paintings to explore the changing light and the passing of seasons, and he was able in his garden to experiment with color, textures, the contrast between light and shadow, reflections, and the dance between earth and sky. In June of this year, American Monet expert Elizabeth Murray will be hosting two workshops in Giverny to celebrate Monet, his garden canvas, and the spirit of creativity that his love of the land and his paintings inspire. Elizabeth worked in Monet’s gardens during its restoration in the 1980s and is the author of the best-selling book Monet’s Passion. She will share her intimate knowledge of the gardens as well as her talent as an instructor of painting and photography during two workshops (June 3–9 and June 10–16). Most of the people who visit Giverny, come during peak hours and blend into the crowds. They are satisfied to be photographed on the Japanese bridge and to walk all-too-quickly among the colorful plantings. Elizabeth suggests the experience can be different. Her approach is a valuable lesson for everyday life—taking time to “smell the roses” (in this case, somewhat literally)—to unplug from the technical world and to connect with natural rhythms. This intimacy with the moment will plant the seeds for rewarding artistic expression and will allow an experience “without constraint,” just as the flowers grow freely and just as Monet preferred to paint. Monet’s gardens will reopen to the public after its winter repose on March 23, 2018. Hours are 9:30 am to 6 pm daily. For more information on Elizabeth Murray’s workshops, visit here. You will also find information about the Paris addition– a four-day adventure led by photographer Meredith Mullins with a Monet focus that includes special visits to the Musée d’Orsay, the Orangerie, and the Marmottan; lunch at the Eiffel Tower, picnic in the Luxembourg gardens, evening river cruise, wine and cheese tasting, walking tours, photography instruction, and much more. Please note the deadline for registration for either adventure is 15 February, 2018. Related articles: On the Trail of Artist Claude Monet in Paris Book Reviews: Mad Enchantment, Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies

Lead photo credit : The Gardens of Giverny. Photo © Meredith Mullins.

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Meredith Mullins is an internationally exhibited fine art photographer and instructor based in Paris. Her work is held in private and museum collections in Europe and the U.S. and can be seen at or in her award-winning book "In A Paris Moment." (If you’re in Paris, a few rare, signed copies are available at Shakespeare and Company and Red Wheelbarrow.) She is a writer for OIC Moments and other travel and education publications.