I have been familiar with the work of Claude Monet for as long as I can remember. I’ve been awed by his Water Lilies triptych at the MoMA and even remember discussing The Four Trees in an Art History lesson in grade school. I’ve visited the Musée Marmottan Monet in the residential 16th arrondissement of Paris and enjoyed walking around the rooms of the converted old home. In 1966, Michel Monet, the second son of the painter, gifted his collection of his father’s work to the museum, endowing it with the most important collection of Claude Monet’s works throughout the world. And yet nothing has compared to visiting the painter’s home in Giverny.
Just about one hour outside of Paris by train, Giverny is a pastoral paradise. You can’t help being hit with a wave of inspiration as you enter the gardens at La Fondation Claude Monet. There seem to be as many colors as there are flowers; thousands of petals growing upwards and outwards into one another and across an expanse of green. And that’s just the area in front of Monet’s house.
THE CLOS NORMAND
Monet was passionate about gardening and considered the spaces around his home to be their own works of art. The area in front of his home is a floral garden called the “Clos Normand.” Monet treated this space as a project to be endlessly improved upon, and he spent much of his time changing and updating the flower beds and structure of the flora and fauna. There were so many varieties of beautiful flowers, but I was most struck by the large dahlias in countless colors sprinkled throughout the garden. There are benches on many of the paths and it’s incredibly peaceful, no matter how many tourists are about, to just sit and observe.
THE WATER GARDEN
The more famous area is of course Monet’s water garden, which the artist memorialized in his multiple Water Lilies series throughout his time in Giverny. He acquired this piece of land after first purchasing the house and diverted a nearby stream to create the now infamous lily pond. He drew on his interest in Japanese culture and planted oriental fauna such as bamboo and maple trees, as well as constructing the arched green Japanese bridge that appears in many of his paintings. This area of the grounds is especially striking and peaceful, and it is clear why Monet was so infatuated with the landscape. I could have spent several hours walking around the footpaths or reading by the pond.
Monet’s house is beautiful inside and out, with its peach-pink exterior and striking interior decor. I enjoyed looking at Monet’s collection of Japanese prints, which point to his fascination with Japanese culture and oriental aesthetic evident throughout his own painting and in the structure of the water garden. All of the impressionist paintings inside are reproductions, but it was interesting to see which of his own paintings the artist chose to adorn his walls.
LE MUSEE DES IMPRESSIONNISMES GIVERNY
I also walked through the Giverny museum of impressionism which is just up the road from Monet’s home. There was an exhibit on Henri-Edmond Cross that I enjoyed and a beautiful garden surrounding the building as well. You can purchase a joint ticket to the Fondation Monet and Le Musee for a cheaper price, which I highly recommend.
If you have time, it is also worth wandering around the town of Giverny itself! I walked up to the local church where the Monet family tomb is located, and treated myself to some delicious Normandy cider at a nearby restaurant — a great end to the day!
For more information on getting to the museum, hours, ticket prices, etc: http://fondation-monet.com/en/