Published on August 9th, 2015 | by Lucie Pierron0
One Sunday in Giverny
“Claude Monet painted surfaces of the pond where, in a Japanese garden, where water lilies bloom. But he painted this surface only, in perspective view and no horizon is given to these paintings, which have no beginning and no other end than the limits of the frame, but the imagination easily extends those limits as far as it pleases. “
Paul Durand-Ruel, private collector in 1909 at the exhibition of the first Waterlilies in his gallery.
French painting is known worldwide for its painters and their works; Pablo Picasso, Auguste Renoir, Camille Pissarro, Alfred Silsey, Claude Monet… But where did these brilliant artists live and evolve?
To find out, I traveled to Giverny, the home of Claude Monet, leading figure of the Impressionist movement. A small village located in Lower Normandy one hour from Paris, Giverny is a charming place. In fact, as soon as we arrived, we entered fully into the world of Monet and so we began to grasp his various sources of inspiration.
Visitors can view the artist’s home and gardens. A small house from the 19th century, it includes the painter’s bedroom with beautiful views of the Normandy countryside. The view from the room is like a beautiful painting itself.
The kitchen, its cast iron stove and the gift shop that has taken the place of the former workshop, present an accurate vision of the period.
A true ascetic, Claude Monet lived in this house most of his life, drawing inspiration from the elements of nature around him. Indeed, the walk through the garden leads to the pond that inspired the famous Water Lilies series, painted on life-size canvases of nature.
One who takes an interest in the life of Monet will understand the key importance of the garden among his sources of inspiration, but also in the daily life of the artist. Twice in his life Claude Monet fought for his garden to remain as it was.
The first time he opposed a renowned manufacturer who wished to build a lumber company by his garden. Monet took part in a real showdown between the manufacturer and the town that defended his opponent’s plan. The painter constantly put forth the same argument: his garden, and primary source of inspiration, must remain unchanged to allow him to carry out his work. The dispute resulted in Monet purchasing portions of the land across the street. A similar case was held with a steel manufacturer a few years later. The painter was again obliged to advance a considerable sum, to defend his environment. But the important thing is that Giverny was saved.
Claude Monet therefore defended his garden, with all his heart, and would do anything for it to remain as he chose. A very large portion of his savings also was funneled into the daily maintenance of the garden, a priority he also imposed upon his first wife Alice.
The small village of Giverny allows us to better understand the character of Claude Monet. An atypical character tormented a very large part of his life by money worries, Giverny became his haven. It was after his arrival in this house that life began to smile upon him. After wandering between Le Havre, his hometown, Paris, where he tried to take his first steps and Normandy where he sought inspiration, he finally figured out how to define himself pictorially. He fully implemented the advice of Eugène Boudin who took him under his wing when he was very young. At that time Monet made his living sketching caricatures of passersby. He met Eugène Boudin at a private viewing in a gallery. Although Monet refused at first to speak to the elder artist, they got to know each other over the course of the evening. This grew into a real relationship, which lasted many years.
Boudin told his new student “all that is painted directly on site retains a certain strength, a power, a touch of liveliness that can not longer be found in the workshop.” Monet would utilize this fundamental Impressionist principle, and even go beyond it, beginning paintings outdoors and finishing them in the workshop. This was the case for all 200 paintings that make up the Water Lilies series (NB: only 22 panels are on display in the Orangerie).
A painter crazy about painting, Monet lived his life through his brush and easel. Despite his money worries, he never attempted anything else. He lived for and through his art.
This visit to the land of Claude Monet was a very rewarding way to get to know the character of Claude Monet. With the beautiful weather on the way, I urge you to try this getaway! And if you’re interested, I must recommend you check out the double biography of Claude Monet / Georges Clemenceau by that Alexandre Duval-Stalla, published by Folio, and dive into time of the Paris Commune, the Water Lilies and early twentieth century!
Heading photo: Monet’s house in Giverny via Wikipedia