Monet in Giverny
Monet discovered Giverny in 1883.
His wife (and model) Camille died in 1879 while the couple and their two children still lived in Vétheuil (17km east of Giverny), in the house of their friend and patron Ernest Hoschede.
Ernest had fled to Belgium the previous year after going bankrupt.
His wife Alice went to Paris taking with her Monet’s two children whom she raised with her own children.
She and the children returned to live in Vétheuil in 1880, then in Poissy (which Monet didn’t like!) the following year.
It was in 1883, on the train that took him from Poissy to Vernon, that Monet discovered the village of Giverny from his window.
Monet, Alice and all their children settled temporarily in Vernon until they found a house to rent in Giverny, on the banks of the Epte.
This house, known as Maison du Pressoir after the communal press located on the neighboring plot, was a simple village house.
It stood in over one hectare of land enclosed by walls that included an orchard and a vegetable garden.
In 1890 Monet was in a financial position to buy the Maison du Pressoir, which would become the famous Maison de Monet.
He and Alice married in 1892.
Creation of the Maison de Monet in Giverny
Monet spent the next 43 years of his life in this house where he painted his most acclaimed canvases, in the midst of his superb gardens, until his death on December 5, 1926.
As soon as he acquired it, he started transforming the village house to suit his professional and family life.
He enlarged it on both sides and converted the adjoining barn into a studio where he did touch-ups on his canvases, which he painted outdoors, and where he stored them. He also converted the upper floor with a small bedroom and bathroom.
He decorated the house interior, which he wanted worthy of a painter’s palette (blue living room, yellow dining room …)
The exterior did not escape his creativity; he had the facade repainted in pink and the shutters in green, built a pergola at the front and planted climbing roses on it so that his house could blend into his gardens.
Monet didn’t spare any expense for those, which he designed, landscaped and embellished: Le Clos Normand (flower garden) and the Water Garden (Japanese garden).
The lush floral compositions he created and the water lilies were his great sources of inspiration and turned the Maison de Giverny into a floral masterpiece.
But what else could one expect from such an acclaimed artist!?
Le Clos Normand
He turned the orchard, which stretched in front of the house, into a magnificent flower garden, Le Clos Normand.
There he created a true floral masterpiece, an artistic garden in constant evolution and transformation.
He planted a multitude of flowers for each season and arranged them by size to create volumes and by colours to create harmonies worthy of his palette.
He also planted wildflowers together with rare flowers and even succeeded in balancing the symmetry of the flower beds by allowing plants to re-seed at their will.
As years went, Monet developed a passion for botany and traded rare plants and flowers with his fellow artists and friends.
The Water Garden
In 1893, Monet acquired a piece of land located opposite his property, on the other side of a road, which he had to cross on foot. An underground passage now accesses this garden.
Despite its location, he found the plot perfect to create his water garden as a small arm of the Epte River crossed it.
Creating and landscaping it was easy, as Monet found inspiration in the Japanese prints he collected.
He had a pond dug and planted with water lilies which provided him his greatest source of inspiration.
Over the last 30 years of his life, he painted some 250 oil canvases of Nympheas, a world-wide acclaimed collection!
His water garden needed bridges, so he had several built; he commissioned a local craftsman to build the most emblematic, the Japanese Bridge which spans the Water Lilies Pond, and planted himself the wisteria that climbed over it.
He added twisted paths that led to small retreats nestled under a lush vegetation of aquatic trees and shrubs such as bamboos and weeping willows.
This was there, completely cut off from the outside world, that he found inspiration for his most acclaimed canvases.
The peaceful atmosphere of the water element also influenced his style, as he relentlessly worked at capturing the ephemeral essence of mists and reflections.
His brushstrokes thus became perhaps more precise and detailed than before.
La Maison de Giverny
Monet left his beloved house to his son Michel and his wife Blanche, a painter herself.
After her death in 1947, Michel moved to another house where he stored his father’s canvases.
Sadly, by the end of WWII, La Maison de Monet had fallen into an advance state of disrepair, severely damaged by the bombing.
Open to the sky, the interiors were further degraded by the weather and vegetation had begun to take possession of the premises.
According to Monet’s wish, Michel bequeathed Giverny to the Academy of Fine Arts when he died in 1966.
The gardens and house and its furniture, but also Monet’s orangery, were patiently restored over 10 years in the 1980’s and returned to their original grandeur thanks to generous sponsors.
The Water Lilies Pond was re-created and enlarged, the Japanese bridge rebuilt to the identical and the Clos Normand dug to its original level and replanted with the flowers so dear to Monet.
The result is sublime, but it’s a bit disconcerting to think that this is just a reproduction!
N.B. Monet is one of the founding members of Impressionism, an artistic movement that took shape in the second half of the 19th century, but the precursor is undoubtedly Eugène Boudin.
Impression, rising sun, which Monet painted in 1872-73 in one-go in the early morning in Le Havre, his childhood town, left its name to the movement.
La Maison de Monet and its exceptional gardens are owned by the Académie des Beaux-Arts and run and preserved by the Fondation Claude Monet, a non-profit organization.
How to get to the Maison de Monet in Giverny?
Department of Eure – 84 Rue Claude Monet – Giverny
Coordinates: 49.078214 – Long 1.533330
By car from Paris: 74kms with tolls – A14 and A13 to Bonnières-sur-Seine then D113 to Limetz-Villez and D201and D5
By train from Paris: Saint-Lazare station towards Rouen-Le Havre – get off at Vernon-Giverny 7kms from Monet’s house – You can pre-book a taxi or wait for the shuttle bus (€10 return trip – 2020 price)
N.B. 30kms farther along the Seine, you can visit the impressive ruins of Chateau-Gaillard, the mighty fortress built by Richard the Lion-heart, King of England, Duke of Normandy and vassal of the French King