The Giverny Gardens: A Visit to Claude Monet’s Sanctuary
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For a year, a wild wind of uncertainty has blown through all of our lives. As we enter the second year of the pandemic, many of us are desperate for escapism and travel dreams.
Last June 19th, after the first unprecedented three-month lockdown in France, I had a deep desire to lighten my mood. One of the timeless treasures of Normandy was the perfect place to invigorate my senses: Claude Monet’s house and gardens at Giverny. Walking through a vibrant living painting lifted my spirits in an immeasurable way.
Here I wish to share my favorite photographs illustrating the realm of the founder of the Impressionism. I hope that this visual journey will spur your imagination and satisfy your wanderlust as a new Spring is fast approaching.
The house and the gardens in Giverny tell an authentic story about Claude Monet’s creative mind and the spirit of the Impressionism art movement. The quaint village of Giverny is located on the north side of the River Seine on the edge Normandy’s greenery. It’s situated between Paris and Rouen, the capital of Normandy, inextricably linked to Impressionism.
The site attracts more than half a million visitors each year from all over the world. According to the Foundation in Giverny, 719,000 people visited in 2019. In 2020, due to the pandemic, the numbers dropped to 165,000. The site has been listed as a historic monument since April 1976.
The term “Impressionism” was born as a result of both a misjudgment and mockery made by the journalist and art critic Louis Leroy about the aesthetics of Monet’s painting entitled “Impression, Sunrise” (Impression, Soleil Levant) exhibited for the very first time in the studios of a famous photographer of the time, Nada. The journalist’s sarcastic article was published under the heading “The Exhibition of the Impressionists.”
The Impressionists demonstrated their extraordinary skills at plein-air painting. They carefully studied nature, with a deep appreciation of light, to capture fleeting moments. Monet brilliantly mastered the play of sunlight with the variations of colors at any time of the day. “Color is my day long obsession, joy and torment,” he said once.
He was also passionate about gardening and was enthralled by reflections of clouds on water.
He arrived at Giverny in 1883 and lived with his family there for 43 years until his death in 1926.
“These landscapes of water and reflections have become an obsession…
I hope something will come out of so much effort” – Claude Monet
The Water Garden
Over the years, he designed the garden, the Japanese bridge, and the pond. The site eventually became a piece of living art where Monet drew an inexhaustible source of inspiration to create his finest masterpieces: The Japanese bridge and the Nympheas (the Water Lilies pond), which he devoted his last 30 years to painting. The water lilies pond was finally immortalized in the famed series of 250 oil paintings depicting their reflections on the water.
Monet fused nature in his artwork. He beautifully harmonized his color palette in his painting to transform the gardens into a floral masterpiece with vivid and luminous hues and shades.
The stunning beauty of the water garden– dressed up with the famous Japanese bridge covered with wisterias blooming in the early Spring and in the Summer, the pond with floating water lilies, bordered by the weeping willows, bamboo, and poplars– is imbued with the aura of the master and still today reflect Monet’s vision.
The Clos Normand and the Monet House
The floral art garden showcases vibrant colors owing to a plethora of flowers blooming in the rhythm of the seasons. The Clos Normand, measuring two and half acres, is planted directly in front of Monet’s house. The central path is covered with a series of decorative arches elegantly ornamented with roses. Perennials, yellow irises, dahlias tamarisk, tulips… The profusion of intensely colored flowers is a journey into the heart of Monet’s artistic inspiration entwined with his passion for gardening.
The Foundation Claude Monet is open every day from April 1st to November 1st 2021 from 9:30 am to 6:00 pm, last admission 5:30 pm. No pets allowed. Reservations must be made online in advance on the official website. Note that opening hours could change based on the coronavirus pandemic.
Lead photo credit : Water lilies © Sarah Fauvel
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