Monet’s Gardens

Our visit to Monet’s Gardens in Giverny, France

Preface – by Susan on Ice FloeOur visit to Monet’s gardens was prompted by my sister Margaret (a newly graduated Master Gardener).  Margaret and her husband Burt joined us for a visit that began with a sail enjoying the Mediterranean towns and cities along the French Riviera and ended with a whirlwind tour of the most well known sites in Paris.  Margaret asked that, if possible, we include a visit to Monet’s gardens, at Giverny and we are so glad we did.

Margaret is guest author of today’s post.

Monet’s Gardens by Margaret on Ice Floe

“Claude Monet’s gardens at Giverny are like his paintings – brightly colored patches that are messy but balanced. Flowers were his brushstrokes, a bit untamed and slapdash, but part of a carefully composed design” (Rick Steves, Gene Openshaw, and Steve Smith).

View from the far end of Monet’s flower garden to his home

I first learned of Monet’s Gardens when I attended a presentation at our local library as part of the Master Gardener “Cabin Fever” lecture series. The presenter was a local watercolor artist, Celia Knapp. Celia has made numerous visits to the gardens and is very well versed in the history of Claude Monet and the development of the gardens.

Claude Monet is considered the “leading light” of the Impressionist movement.  He pursued his art in defiance of his family, who were of very modest means, and practiced his art in the “open air”, in contrast to the accepted approach of painting in the “perfect lighting of a controlled studio setting”.

We arrived at Giverny from Paris by way of a high-speed train ride and, then, a “train-like” trolley that included an overhead recorded history of the village of Giverny, whose claim to fame is primarily its connection to Claude Monet. Giverny sits on the right bank of the river Seine.

Entering Giverny by “train”
Left to right, George, Burt, Margaret, Susan
On the little train
    

From there, we approached the gardens on foot.

Giverny (Zhee-vair-nee or, as George likes to pronounce it, Gib-er-nee) is in the Normandy region of France, about 50 miles north of Paris. Monet discovered Giverny while traveling on a train, and eventually purchased a farmhouse on an orchard, turning a barn on the propery into his studio. He settled into the farmhouse with his wife, Alice, and their eight children. The surrounding land would eventually evolve into one of the most inspirational settings of his art.

Claude Monet’s home  (photo downloaded from wikimedia.org.  Author Michal Osmenda from Brussels, Belgium)

My first impression is that it was a little confusing determining exactly when we reached the gardens. In retrospect, I think it may be because the town, itself, has identified itself so closely with the gardens that it’s difficult to determine where they actually begin, apart from the town. At a certain point, we reached the ticket window. From there, we entered the gift shop. WOW!! The town, and the entity that oversees the gardens, have definitely perfected the commercialization of the site. The gift shop was buzzing with visitors and consumers of books, prints, artwork and memorabilia. In order to enter or exit the gardens you were required to go through the gift shop – genius!

All of Monet’s gardens sit on approximately 5 acres, but there is hardly a square foot that isn’t in bloom in the month of June. The grounds are made up of two gardens – the Clos Normand and the water garden.  Monet’s house is located in the Clos Normand side of the propery.  It’s painted pink and “Monet green” – his favorite colors. The public is allowed to tour the interior of the house, which we did. The dining room is notable for its color scheme of bright yellow and blue – a favorite color combination of Monet.

Dining room in Claude Monet’s home in Giverny (photo from wikimedia.org)

The Clos Normand gardens were designed to provide colorful blooms and/or foliage year-round. Just as one flower fades, another takes its place. You really have to see it to believe it (which you will with the pictures that Susan will share).

Editor’s note – I am quite certain a thousand pictures cannot substitute for seeing these gardens yourself.  We are so glad Margaret suggested we visit.  Below are some of my favorite pictures.

    

Monet’s Water Gardens

This pond is the destination of the path through the water gardens and the inspiration of many of
Monet’s most famous paintings
Bridges and walkways allow you to meander through
the extensive water gardens
Across the road and accessible by way of an underground tunnel are the water gardens. Monet diverted a river to form the pond and erected two Japanese bridges, painted Monet green, overlooking the pond full of water lilies. This would become the inspiration for 250 painted panels depicting the “serene surface of his water-lily pond”. In addition to the lilies, there are various breeds of irises, willows and bamboo.
Many chaperoned groups of children visited the
gardens the day we were there.
In the last half of his life, Monet developed cataracts. “His canvases became larger and the painted details were fewer. Rather than focusing on the water lilies, he emphasized the changing reflections on the pond’s surface – the blue sky, white clouds, and green trees that line the shore” (Gene Openshaw and Steve Smith).
Margaret and Burt – Two of the most generous people we have ever known and while our lives and paths have taken us very different places, two kindred spirits we treasure spending time with.

As with our entire 2 weeks in France, George and Susan went out of their way to ensure that we experienced as much of the French culture and “experience” as is humanly possible in that length of time. I particularly wanted to visit Monet’s Gardens and, true to form, they made it happen. If you have the opportunity to visit France, you could not find better tour guides than George and Susan. The most generous couple we have ever known.

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