Bright flowers and water lilies: Claude Monet’s Giverny garden

Have you ever read Roald Dahl’s My Uncle Oswald? It’s the hilarious story of Oswald and Yasmin who travel the world armed with the most powerful aphrodisiac to collect the semen of great men. Einstein, Picasso, Freud, they all fall victim to the plot, along with many others. One day, Oswald and Yasmin decide to pay French painter Claude Monet a visit. Oswald waits in his car while his female accomplice does the dirty deed. 3 hours later Yasmin comes back with a large canvas under her arm, “a shimmering study of water lilies on the lake in Monet’s Giverny garden, a real beauty”.

Claude Monet - White and yellow Water Lilies (1915-1917) Kunstmuseum Winterthur, Winterthur, Switzerland

Last Sunday I finally visited this jewel of a place located in Normandy, an hour away from Paris. Strolling through the gardens, it was obvious Monet was inspired by them as an Impressionist painter: dots of bright-colored flowers among green leaves, luscious ruffles of nasturtium plants creeping in the alleys, water lilies resting in the lake among reflections of the sky and surrounding trees. Have you ever visited a place resembling a painting?

Claude Monet - Garden Path (1902) Österreichische Galerie, Vienna, Austria

Narrow alleys bordered with bright-colored flowers lead to Claude Monet’s house from the property entrance. A bit further along at the gate, the main alley is covered with a carpet of nasturtium plants.

The garden seems particularly luxuriant as Monet set it on different levels and split it in many different patches to create an effect of great variety.

After walking around the garden, you can finally visit Claude Monet’s pink house with green shutters. I wish I could have taken pictures of the inside to show you, but there were guards literally everywhere!

An underpass near the property entrance leads to the Water garden. Claude Monet’s passion for Japan inspired him to design this area (his house is decorated with a multitude of Japanese prints). The garden is set around the pond, a vast liquid mirror bordered by bamboos and weeping willows.

Monet was fascinated by the play of light and the reflections of clouds on water. The Water garden and its water lilies inspired him to paint series bordering on abstract art. Speaking of which, an exhibition on Monet and Abstraction is being held at the Musée Marmottan in Paris until September 26th.

Two Japanese bridges face each other on the pond. Monet decided to have them painted green instead of the traditional red so they would be more in harmony with the surrounding nature.

The Claude Monet Foundation may be Giverny’s main attraction, but this charming village has many other sights to offer. Among them, the hotel-restaurant Baudy was very popular among Impressionist painters. The dining is excellent and you can have a walk in the rose garden once you have finished eating.

The neighboring town of Vernon, where the nearest train station is located, is also worth a visit. Its Norman architecture offers some peculiar sights, such as this slanting house near the church and the Old Mill on the river Seine.

If you’d like to know more about Claude Monet, a retrospective of his work will be held at the Grand Palais in Paris from September 22nd 2010 to January 24th 2011.

Connaissez-vous Mon oncle Oswald, le roman de Roald Dahl ? Armés d’un puissant aphrodisiaque, Oswald et Yasmin piègent les grands de ce monde d’une façon bien peu orthodoxe et rocambolesque. Einstein, Picasso, Freud et bien d’autres sont victimes de leur plan machiavélique. Un jour, ils décident de rendre visite au peintre Claude Monet. Oswald attend dans sa voiture pendant que sa complice accomplit le sale boulot. 3 heures plus tard, Yasmin revient avec une peinture sous le bras, « une brillante étude de nénuphars sur l’étang du jardin de Monet à Giverny, une véritable beauté ».

Dimanche dernier, j’ai enfin visité cet endroit magnifique en Normandie, à une heure de Paris. En se promenant dans les jardins,  on se rend compte à quel point Monet s’en est inspiré dans sa peinture impressionniste : des pointillés de fleurs aux couleurs vives parmi la verdure, les feuilles luxuriantes de capucines rampant dans les allées, des nénuphars posés dans l’étang parmi les reflets du ciel et des branches d’arbres. Vous êtes-vous déjà trouvés dans un lieu qui ressemble à une peinture ?

De fines allées bordées de fleurs multicolores mènent à la maison de Claude Monet à l’entrée de la propriété. Un peu plus loin, le chemin au niveau du portail est envahi d’un tapis de capucines. La nature paraît particulièrement abondante dans ce jardin car Monet avait travaillé sur des effets de perspective avec des installations à plusieurs niveaux. Après avoir traversé le jardin du Clos normand, on arrive enfin à la maison rose aux volets verts. J’aurais bien pris des photos de l’intérieur pour vous le montrer mais il y avait des gardes partout !

Un passage souterrain mène au Jardin d’eau. Ce lieu très apaisant témoigne de la passion de Monet pour le Japon ; d’ailleurs, sa maison est remplie d’estampes de ce pays. Le jardin est organisé autour de l’étang, un immense miroir liquide entouré de bambous et de saules pleureurs. Monet était fasciné par les jeux de lumière et les reflets des nuages sur l’eau. Le Jardin d’eau avec ses nénuphars lui a inspiré ses peintures à la limite de l’abstraction. D’ailleurs, une exposition sur ce thème est organisée au Musée Marmottan de Paris jusqu’au 26 septembre. Deux ponts d’inspiration orientale se font face sur l’étang. S’ils sont rouges au Japon, Monet a décidé de les peindre en vert à Giverny pour qu’ils soient bien en harmonie avec la nature environnante.

La fondation Claude Monet est l’attraction principale de Giverny, mais ce charmant village possède d’autres atouts. Parmi eux, l’hôtel-restaurant Baudy, un haut-lieu du mouvement impressionniste. La cuisine et le service y sont excellents et on peut se promener dans le vaste jardin de roses après avoir déjeuné.

La ville voisine de Vernon où se trouve la gare SNCF vaut aussi le détour. Son architecture typiquement normande possède quelques bijoux insolites comme cette maison de travers près de l’église et le Vieux-Moulin sur la Seine.

Si vous voulez en savoir plus sur l’œuvre de Claude Monet, une rétrospective de son œuvre aura lieu au Grand Palais du 22 septembre 2010 au 24 janvier 2011.

27 thoughts on “Bright flowers and water lilies: Claude Monet’s Giverny garden

    1. Thanks Kitty!
      I can relate to what you say about Louisiana. I visited the state a really long time ago, but I still remember how beautiful the plantations were. You feel like you’re in another time when you’re there!

  1. It’s amazing that it’s possible to visit a place where Monet draw his inspiration from and it’s so good it’s so perfectly preserved. Just looking through photos I see his paintings! It actually strike me the first time I saw photos my friend took there and it still amazes me now.

    1. You’re right about that, I wish we could visit artists’ homes more so we could see where they drew their inspiration from! I wasn’t too excited about the Monet retrospective that will take place in Paris, but now that I’ve seen his place, I’m really interested in it.

      1. Actually I’m going to the retrospective or we have planned to do that. :) (I’ll be in Paris for a weekend – 30th October – 1nd November) So, yeah, your post was like an insight what to expect! :)
        And thanks for visiting and appreciating my blog! xo

  2. I visited Giverny in late May. The garden was heavenly, serene despite all the tourist. I can only imagine how it must have been to that be your own private place. I loved Monet’s house as well, and sneakily took some photos in there! Just for the sake of my memory..

  3. Great post cherie! It’s so nice to recognize everything now after I’ve been there too. Wasn’t is heavenly beautiful? Gave so much understanding to his work. When we were there, there were so many people working to continue keeping the place in order. And they worked with such love and careness. Thanks for this post!

  4. Lovely blog, I leave for Giverny in a week. I have been going 25 years! In 1985 I helped restore the gardens and have returned annually to photograph them. I know and love them. I will give a talk in Paris on my new 20th anniversary edition of Monet’s Passion. I will also attend the big Monet show opening Sept. 22 in the Grand Palais with 220 paintings! Very exciting! In my book I talk about the history of Monet’s garden, his muse, the garden today and designs to bring home to your own garden or balcony.

  5. oh tu me fais regretter de ne pas y être aller! j’attends avec impatience son expo qui commence cette semaine mais là tes photos me montrent que giverny rapelle vraiment les paysages du peintre et on voit parfaitement ses sources d’inspirations!

    merci pour ce splendide partage!

    biz

    1. De rien!
      Tu as encore le temps d’y aller : les jardins de Giverny sont ouverts jusqu’au 1er novembre. Ils ne sont peut-être pas aussi beaux qu’au printemps, mais il y a moins de touristes en ce moment.

  6. Thank you for this great post! I really enjoyed reading it (and reliving memories of a childhood trip there with my mom) – and wanted to make it official via a comment. :)

  7. I am remembering my visit to Giverny through your post. In fact, we took a lot of the same pictures too! It was so beautiful that it must truly be seen in person even though your pictures are a great reminder to me. It was a beautiful day in May that I went on a Sunday morning and not many people were there yet.
    I loved the tree of roses that were scattered about. And the waterlilies were so calming and peaceful.

  8. Pure jealousy filled me when I saw your beautiful photos! I’m a huge art nerd and Monet has to be my absolute favorite impressionist, I would kill to go to Giverny! I’m scheming a trip to go next summer hopefully. I must say that your photos have made my day! His garden has to be one of the most beautiful places in the world, thank you for the wonderful post!

  9. Oh Anne, you really captured the beauty and essence of Monet’s Gardens. As you know, I visited Giverny this summer. I too fell in love with the serenity and was able to put myself in Monet’s shoes, so to speak. In such a place, it’s easy to understand how he was inspired to create such works of art. Thank you for sharing!

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s