Giverny and Claude

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Rainstorms and Water Gardens – Giverny and Monet

Though we’d bought tickets online for Giverny we debated the value of a whole day spent on a visit, but in the end the decision was yes. And it turned out to be one of the best days of our trip.

We trained out to Vernon, the nearest stop on the RER line, then stood in the rain for 15 minutes (hurrah for travel umbrella’s!) while waiting for the bus to Giverny. Then it was a quick bus ride across the Seine.

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To get to Giverny village you walk up from the car park, on the other side of the main road, and there you are in the middle of a traditional french village.

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Then it’s right onto rue Claude Monet (go figure) a dozen paces and you’re at the entrance to the Little Cider Press house and Monet’s home.

Everything I have earned has gone into the Gardens.

Claude Monet

Once you enter the first thing you see is the Clos Normand garden, created out of about a hectare of land. You can see the hand of a great artist in it’s  layout, the garden is so filled with different perspectives and colours that you feel that you’re walking in a much larger space.

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Looking down the central arch covered alley of the garden. In high summer the arches are covered in climbing roses and nasturtiums cover the ground, you can see what it looks like in Monet’s painting The Rose Way in Giverny, though the reddish colour of the piece is attributed to the cataracts that were affecting his vision at the time.

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… and a view from the first floor of Monet’s house across the Clos Normand towards the water gardens.

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Crossing under the road via a tunnel you arrive in Monet’s water gardens, which he started on about ten years after he arrived in Giverny. These were  the inspiration for Monet’s Water Lilies and Nymphea series.

I hadn’t actually expected to see in real life the scenes that Monet had captured in his Nymphea paintings that we’d seen in the L’ Orangerie. As the light and cloudscape changed so to did the mood and feel of the gardens, almost from minute to minute, now I understand why Monet so often painted not one but a whole series of paintings of a single subject.

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Looking across the pond at the japanese bridge that featured in Monet’s Bridge over a Pond of Water.

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The water garden is laid out in the japanese style with irregular curved ponds a wisteria covered japanese bridge, weeping willows and bamboo thickets along the banks. A beautiful exercise in artful disorder.

If the japanese prints in the house didn’t give it away then the lay out of this water garden would definitely tell you that Claude had a bad case of that japan-mania so common among fin de siècle artists.

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Galina in a contemplative mood.

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And boats, for messing about in…

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The flower beds closest to the house a cascade of brilliant reds and whites.

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… with possibly the most photographed poultry in the world.

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The pink coloured walls and green shutters of the main house were picked by Monet, who also chose the colour of each of the rooms inside. The dinning room is done in a blaze of yellows while the adjacent kitchen is tiled in blue, apparently this was to give the right colour combination when guests looked through from the dining room.

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So after wandering through Monet’s garden and house we headed up the main street, you guessed it, la rue Claude Monet, to have a look at the rest of the village. Which by this time was sparkling in the sunlight that had broken through the rain clouds, did I mention that Normandy weather can be changeable?

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Having reached the noon hour we had lunch (and some of the local beer) at the ancient hotel Baudy, in it’s even more ancient rose garden. Many of the impressionist painters who came to Giverny stayed here.

Giverny was not just the province of Monet the picturesque nature of the village, it’s location on the slopes of the Seine valley and the wild changeable Normandy sky, which we also experienced, all served to attract many of the leading lights of the impressionist movement.

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After lunch we continued our tour of Giverny, sheltering in the American Museum of Art from a fierce but short lived summer storm. Then as the light started to come in we were on our way back to Paris, and from Paris to the Versailles fire and waterworks. 🙂

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