We start our journey to Monet’s Gardens in Giverny much like Monet did back in the 1800s, at Gare Saint Lazare, the second busiest rail station in Paris.
Giverny in northern France about 80 km from Paris and situated on the right bank of the Seine is best known as the location of Claude Monet’s Gardens and home.
Giverny has been inhabited since neolithic times, and the Romanesque village church dates back to the middle ages.
It had only about 300 residents when Monet discovered it from out of a train window and made it his home.
He bought the house and surrounding land in 1890 and set out to create his most famous series of paintings all about his gardens. He lived and painted here until his death in 1926.
The house and gardens were left to the Academy of Beaux-Arts in 1966 by Monet’s son. Later in 1980 after a lot of restoration work, it was opened as a museum to the public.
Today over 500,000 visitors come here each year.
Monet’s gardens consist of two separate garden spaces: a flower garden in front of the house known as Clos Normand, and a Japanese water garden with those famous Water Lilies on the other side of the road.
Back when Monet settled in Giverny in 1883, the land in front of the house sloped down to the road in front and was planted with an orchard and surrounded by stone walls. In addition a central alley with pine trees separated the lot into two sections.
Monet cut down the pine trees and reworked the entire orchard space into a garden full of perspectives, symmetries, and colors.
He divided the garden into flower beds with clumps of different heights to create variation. The orchard trees were surrounded by climbing roses and long-stemmed hollyhocks, daisies, and poppies.
That central alley is now covered by iron arches on which climbing roses flourish. Other rose trees cover the sides of the house.
Monet didn’t believe in organized or carefully planned geometric gardens. He planted flowers by the color and let nature take over.
The water garden
In 1893, Monet bought a piece of land next to his house and gardens on the other side of the railway line. Today we take a walkway under the street to get to it.
It had a small brook running through the property and Monet created a pond and modeled a Japanese water garden based on Japanese prints that he collected.
The famous Japanese bridge in the water garden is covered in wisterias.
This isn’t the original bridge that Monet had some local craftsmen to build. Today’s version was installed shortly after the gardens were restored and was built of beech wood.
However the wisterias are the original plants that were planted by Monet himself.
The garden features many other smaller bridges, weeping willow trees, bamboo woods, and of course the famous water lilies which bloom in the pond all summer long.
Never before in history did an artist actually shape nature to fit his imagination before he painted it. In a way, Monet created a work of art twice – once in his garden, and once on his canvas.
Monet was inspired by his gardens for over 20 years until his death, and his works from this period of time showcase his gardens in all the seasons. His later works focused more on reflections and transparencies in the water than on flowers or plants.
It took nearly 10 years to restore the gardens and Monet’s house to its former glory like we see it today.
Monet lived here for 43 years. The house is about 40 meters long and only about 5 meters wide. The barn next to the house became Monet’s first painting studio.
Above the studio is Monet’s apartment which consisted of a large bedroom and a bathroom. Practically the whole left hand side of the house was devoted to Monet.
Later Monet added two wings to the house as evidenced by the different sized windows. In these wings he added a kitchen and several bedrooms primarily for his family who lived with him in the house.
Blue sitting room
Monet, who of course loved colors, chose all the colors of paint and decorations in the house. This blue sitting room is no exception.
This room is where his wife would sit with their children and read stories or play games.
The color of the room harmonized with that of the Japanese woodblocks that Monet loved to collect.
Monet’s first studio
Monet’s first studio later became just a smoking room where he visited with art dealers, critics, collectors, and friends.
Today it’s lined with reproductions of some of his works, but the furnishings and many of the personal objects in the room today are originals.
Monet slept in this simple bed in this quaint bedroom for all the years he owned the house. He died in it on December 5th 1926.
He was fond of this room because it had sweeping views out three large windows to the garden.
The ornately decorated desk that Monet wrote many a letter at dates back to the 18th century.
Monet and his wife Alice didn’t share the same bedroom. This was the usual custom amongst the upper middle class at the time. However the two bedrooms were connected through the bathrooms.
Alice’s bedroom is decorated in Japanese woodblocks that feature female characters.
It’s one of the few rooms in the house that has a window that overlooks the street side of the house.
You can really get a feeling of how narrow this house really is from looking at this bedroom.
The dining room is the most dramatic room in the house.
Painted in bright yellow and ochre colors, it was a case of Monet preferring bright exciting colors over the more common dark and heavy tones in the typical Victorian style dining rooms of the time.
The yellow colors really accentuate the color of the blue tones of the dishes and plates on display.
Once again, more of Monet’s collection of Japanese engravings and prints line the walls.
Next door to the dining room is of course the kitchen and once again Monet chose a complementary color to the yellow of the dining room – blue!
Monet felt that the blue color of the furnishings and of the Rouen tiles that line the walls would complement the warm glow of the copper pans.