“I need flowers, always flowers, even flowers to pick… so that I can paint them on rainy days”Claude monet
To better appreciate Claude Monet’s paintings, visit his home and famous gardens in Giverny, a small village 50 miles northwest of Paris, in Normandy, France. I dreamed of seeing his beautiful gardens for years and when I actually did make my way there, it was raining yet it was still an unforgettable experience.
Claude Monet’s home and two gardens, The Clos Normand and The Water Garden should be on the “must visit” list of travelers who love beautiful gardens and art history. You must plan well ahead, as the small village of Giverny is one of the most visited sites in Normandy. Unless it rains, you can expect crowds and long lines as over 600,000 people visit the gardens in the 7 months it is normally open each year, from April to October. If it does rain, you will have the beautiful gardens almost to yourself as my husband and I did on a rainy day in April years ago. Going inside Claude Monet’s home, I could almost envision him painting flowers in his studio on a rainy day more than a hundred years before.
“It is in Giverny that you should see Monet in order to know him, his character, his taste for life, his intimate nature. This house and this garden, it is also a masterpiece, and Monet has put all his life into creating and perfecting it.”Gustave Geffroy, a French journalist, art critic and one of the earliest historians of the Impressionist art movement
Monet bought the estate in 1883 and lived there with his family for more than 40 years until his death in 1926. The pink color of the stuccoed walls of the home and the emerald green trim were chosen by the artist himself and were unusual colors for this part of France. He had a pergola added to the front of the house that was planted with climbing roses and Virginia creeper so that all the colors would blend in perfectly with the surrounding gardens on three sides of the home.
“We all took to gardening; I dug, planted, weeded myself; in the evening, the children watered. As the situation got better, I did more and more.”Claude monet
An apple orchard and vegetable garden originally surrounded Monet’s home but as he become more financially sound, he hired a staff of six to assist him with the gardens. He had a greenhouse built where exotic plants were grown. They replaced the orchard with cherry and apricot trees and turned the vegetable gardens into flower gardens. He had trees uprooted that blocked light and had metal archways built and planted with flowering vines to take their place. His newly created flower gardens were filled with thousands of daffodils, tulips, irises, roses, oriental poppies and peonies, depending on the season. During our visit in April the gardens were filled with four varieties of pink tulips massed together, blue forget-me-nots planted underneath, yellow iris and flowering cherry and crab apple trees were all in bloom. It was a sea of pinks, mauves and lilacs as well as blues and yellows with little touches of red offset by all the greenery. Even on a rainy gray day, we were surrounded by color and it was magnificent. Monet once described his garden as “my most beautiful masterpiece” and I agree.
During our visit to the gardens, the rain grew harder and we didn’t get a chance to visit the famous Japanese inspired Water Garden on the other side of the road and railway. That is where you will find the surprisingly small pond and the green Japanese footbridge that were the inspiration for his famous “Water Lilies” paintings. He had the water garden planted with wisterias, water lilies, weeping willows, bamboos and herbaceous plants. While it was disappointing not to have an opportunity to visit The Water Garden, we enjoyed what we saw. We were still looking forward to seeing inside his home.
Monet’s home definitely reflects his personality and love for using light and color. Here again, Monet had his hand in the details of renovating the former farmhouse and turning it into a lovely manor house he restored for his family, even so far as to selecting the china. The kitchen and dining room were the heart of the home and were my favorite rooms.
Blue and yellow were one of Monet’s favorite color combinations both in his gardens and in his home. The entire dining room was all done in shades of brightyellow and the floors were red and white. The furniture which was considered modern for the time was also painted yellow. There were glass cabinets that displayed blue earthenware and his yellow and blue chine that was used for special occasions. In the connecting kitchen, the walls were covered with blue and white tile from Rouen and copper pots lined the wall over the impressive stove and fireplace.
I hope that you will have the opportunity to wander through Claude Monet’s gardens one day. If by chance the weather is predicted to be drizzly, don’t let that stop you from visiting the gardens, as they are delightful even on a rainy day. Monet had a passion for plants and once said that all of his money went into his garden and I think he would be pleased to see how his beloved home and gardens have been restored.
“it’s maybe because of flowers I’ve become a painter”.Claude Monet