The gardens, lily pond and art of Monet’s Giverny

Claude Monet found in his home in Giverny an ideal place to paint. Now travelers can discover the varied talents of this great artist. Photo: Monet's home and studio in Giverny (Photo: Bob Taylor)

GIVERNY, FRANCE, December 23, 2013 — The Impressionist art movement of the late 19th century required three main elements to evolve: the popularity of photography, the ever-changing light of Normandy, and the influence of Claude Monet.

Since 1980, travelers, artists and flower lovers alike have immersed themselves in the vibrant surroundings of Monet’s home and gardens at Giverny.

Clos Normand, Giverny (Photo: Giverny)

It matters little which discipline you prefer. Giverny is infectious. It reaches deep into your soul. It is impossible to be unaffected by it in some manner. At Monet’s Giverny, first impressions are lasting impressions, and there are many.

Technological advances made the pursuit of photography a popular hobby in the late 1800s. Many believed that reproducing reality through pictures would minimize an artist’s ability to express himself. As it turned out, the opposite was true and the seeds of Impressionism were born.

Thanks to photography, the artist was now able to experiment with light and color by taking his palette outdoors. Artists of the day sought to create perceptions of nature rather than the precise representations that had limited them in the past. For the artist, painting became a means of expressing emotion and color was regarded as an extension of his soul. Both are clearly elements that cameras of the period were unable to duplicate.

Lily pond & Japanese bridge (Photo: Taylor)

When Monet was five years old, his family moved to Le Havre in Normandy. His father wanted him to continue in the family grocery business, but Claude had other visions in mind, specifically his dream of becoming an artist.

Around 1846, Monet met Eugène Boudin, a fellow artist who was painting scenes in and around the picturesque harbor village of Honfleur. Boudin had been influenced by another artist from the Honfleur region, Johan Barthold Jongkind. At the time he met Monet, he was in the process of evolving a technique known as “en plein air,” or outdoor painting.

Normandy, with its rural countryside settings nestled along the coast of the English Channel, is a region where the weather is restless: constantly moving clouds, rapidly changing patterns of light, and always evolving splays of color.

Without changing perspective, a scene in this environment can alternate its mood in a matter of seconds. Little wonder such natural phenomena would inspire the soul of creativity.

Impression Sunrise (Claude Monet)

Monet was 32 when he created a painting called “Impression Sunrise.” When it was exhibited in an art show in Paris in 1874, art critic Louis Leroy took the first word of the title and disparagingly call Monet’s work “Impressionism.” Leroy has long since disappeared from the world of art, but Impressionism lives on today as one of the major artistic movements in history.

Today, “Impression Sunrise,” depicting a landscape in the port of Le Havre, hangs  in the Musée Marmottan Monet in Paris 

Four years after the death of his beloved wife, Camille, Monet caught a glimpse of Giverny from the window of a local train while traveling between Vernon and Gasny in 1883. He rented a house in Giverny, about 70 miles north of Paris. Soon after, he purchased the home in which he would reside for the remainder of his life.

This house at the time was situated near the main road of town. But it was the nearby barn that piqued Monet’s creativity the most. For the next several years, the artist converted the long two-story building into a house and studio overlooking his magnificent gardens. With huge picture windows that opened out to the gardens, Monet was sheltered from the elements so that he could work in any weather.

The lily pond (Photo: Taylor)

What frequently is overlooked in Monet’s life is that he was a world class horticulturist. The gardens were his own design, and Monet frequently changed them according to the seasons. So prolific was he in these pursuits that he was almost as famous for his botanical skills as he was for his painting.

Also fascinating in this regard was Monet’s decision to divert a section of the main river in order to create his lily pond. The famed Japanese bridge and lily pond, which are situated across the road from the studio, are accessible by a small connecting tunnel.

Initially the lily pond was a quiet refuge for Monet until he had an epiphany and realized it would be an ideal subject for his painting. So infatuated did Monet become with the lilies, that once he discovered their endless beauty and possibilities, he hardly painted anything else for the remainder of his life. 

Claude Monet was 86 when he died of cancer in 1926. He is buried in Giverny in the church cemetery.

Upon the artist’s death, Monet’s only son, Michel, inherited the home, gardens and lily pond. In 1966, Michel bequeathed the property to the French Academy of Fine Arts. By 1980, the Foundation Claude Monet opened the house and gardens to the public.

Hours are 9:30 am to 6:00 pm with the last admission at 5:30 pm. Regular admission for adults and seniors is about $12.50. Children under seven are free and tickets for disabled visitors are approximately $6.50. There are also rates for groups of 20 or more.

In keeping with Monet’s philosophy, the gardens are regularly changed throughout the months they are open to visitors.

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About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe. He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com).

 His goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.

Read more of Travels with Peabod and Bob Taylor at The Washington Times Communities

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More from Normandy - Destiny and Light - An Open Book Travel Feature
 
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Bob Taylor

Bob Taylor has been travel writer for more than three decades. Following a career as an award winning sports producer/anchor, Taylor’s media production business produced marketing presentations for Switzerland Tourism, Rail Europe, the Finnish Tourist Board, Japan Railways Group, the Swedish Travel & Tourism Council and the Swiss Travel System among others. He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com) and his goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.

 

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