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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Claude Monet - Giverny, France

Claude Monet

We drove 4 hours just to see these beautiful gardens.

When Claude Monet and his family settled in Giverny, France in 1883, the land on the property consisted of an orchard that sloped gently down toward the road and was enclosed by high stone walls. 

Bill brought a piece home with him in his suitcase.

Those stone walls are still standing and have large chunks of flint embedded in the mortar.

Claude Monet did not like organized nor constrained gardens. He married flowers according to their colors and left them to grow rather freely.  Monet made a garden full of perspectives, symmetries and colors.   

Today the land is divided into flowerbeds where flower clumps of different heights create volume. Fruit trees or ornamental trees dominate the climbing roses, the long -stemmed hollyhocks and the colored banks of annuals. 
Monet mixed the simplest flowers (daisies and poppies) with the rarest varieties. 

Espalier Apple Trees

Apple trees only three feet tall are espaliered along the edge of the gardens while climbing roses arch high overhead.

In 1893, ten years after his arrival at Giverny, Monet bought the piece of land neighboring his property on the other side of the railway. 
It was crossed by a small brook, the Ru, which is a diversion of the Epte, a tributary of the Seine River. With the support of the prefecture, Monet had the first small pond dug; even though his peasant neighbors were opposed. They were afraid that his strange plants would poison the water. 
Michelle, taking pictures for her flower series.

Later on the pond would be enlarged to its present day size. The water garden is full of asymmetries and curves. It is inspired by the Japanese gardens that Monet knew from the prints he collected avidly.  

In this water garden you will find the famous Japanese bridge covered with wisterias, other smaller bridges, weeping willows, a bamboo wood and above all the famous nympheas which bloom all summer long. The pond and the surrounding vegetation form an enclosure separated from the surrounding countryside.

Never before had a painter so shaped his subjects in nature before painting them. And so he created his works twice. Monet would find his inspiration in this water garden for more than twenty years.

After the Japanese bridge series, he would devote himself to the giant decorations of the Orangery. 

Always looking for mist and transparencies, Monet would dedicate himself less to flowers than to reflections in water, a kind of inverted world transfigured by the liquid element.

After Claude Monet's death in 1926, his son Michel inherited the house and garden of Giverny. He did not live there and it was Monet's step-daughter Blanche who took care of the property. Unfortunately after the Second World War the house and garden were neglected. In 1966 Michel Monet made the Academie des Beaux-Arts his heir.

Almost ten years were necessary to restore the garden and the house to their former magnificence. Not much was left. The greenhouse panes and the windows in the house were reduced to shards after the bombings. Floors and ceiling beams had rotted away,  a staircase had collapsed. Three trees were even growing in the big studio.  The pond had to be dug again. Then the same flower species as those discovered by Monet in his time were planted.

Monet didn't like dark wood so he painted his dining room in yellow.

Thanks to generous donors, mostly from the USA , the house was given a facelift. The ancient furniture and the Japanese prints were restored.  Today 500 000 visitors discover Monet's gardens each year during the seven months that it is open.

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