Click on photos to enlarge.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Claude Monet's Giverny

Copyright, Jim Lane
Giverny's house and garden, after the brief shower.
Copyright, Jim Lane
Monet's Japanese Water Lily pond
(lovely even in the rain).
The song sings the glories of "April in Paris," though May is much more conducive to having a pleasant time. The only problem is that the weather can be somewhat erratic. Brief showers are never far beyond the next hedgerow with brilliant sunlight to follow. Thus it was somewhat sad, yet poignant, that my pilgrimage to the shrine most sacred to those who love French Impressionism began with just such a brief shower. It didn't pour, but then again, an umbrella (which I didn't have) would have been most welcomed. There's no record of Claude Monet having ever painted in the rain, at his beloved Giverny or anywhere else, but I have to think that any artist so enamored with painting out-of-doors must have endured more than a few raindrops from time to time. Thus, the Japanese Gardens of Giverny I explored in the rain. Later, while waiting in a lengthy line to get inside Monet's home, a kindly lady allowed me to get under her umbrella.
Copyright, Jim Lane
Monet's kitchen--sunny, bright, spacious, and thoroughly modern for its time.
Copyright, Jim Lane
At Giverny, May showers bring May flowers.
Monet's home, though relatively spacious for its time, was never meant to accommodate the enormous crowds which daily come to pay homage to the one artist in all of the history of French art who exemplifies that which is the best his country has to offer. Oh, I'm sure some might argue in favor of Picasso or van Gogh, neither of whom were French, by the way. Some might mention Ingres or David or Delacroix, Manet, or Matisse perhaps, but quite frankly, none of those rose to the heights of fame, fortune, and favor as did the master of Giverny. Yet Monet's home is quite, for lack of a better term, "homey." Had it not been his home, I'm sure it would have long since fallen into a state of benign neglect, despite the beauty of its surroundings and the quaint little community which has grown up nearby. Though brick on the outside, heavily clothed with vines and flowery greenery, inside the house creaks, its wood floors and plaster walls quite ordinary, though laden with more paintings (or copies of them) bearing the names of Monet's friends than might otherwise be expected. It's been "museumized" so one can't exactly claim it to have a "lived in" look, but I suspect the artist's ghost must sometimes wander about. I was amazed at the number of well-seasoned visitors who, with their portly builds and long, white, "Santa Claus" beards, might reasonably pass for Monsieur Monet.
Copyright, Jim Lane
The Japanese garden bridge today.
Water-Lily Pond 18, 1899, Claude Monet

Visitor's don't flock to Giverny to see Monet's house, or if so, they come away quite likely underwhelmed. They come to see what Monet saw. They take photos, many of which may end up rendered impressionistically with oils on canvas. I shot several that may fall into that category. Monet's greenish arched bridge crossing his water lily pond (which is actually a steam) is probably the most iconic of all the landmarks Giverny has to offer. A close second would be the arching trellis through which one approaches the front door of the house. Monet painted it both coming and going. Elsewhere, there are simply the flowers. Monet, it's said, employed seven gardeners. Giverny today has some forty employees who quite possibly keep the grounds more lively with blossoms for the benefit of the tourists than when Monet lived there.

There's as much to see and do around Paris as there is in Paris.
For the art lover, even a full week is much to short to absorb the
centuries of art, architecture, and culture the city has to offer.
Claude Monet Painting, 1885,
John Singer Sargent
Giverny is near the Seine River about thirty or forty miles northwest of Paris (above). I went by bus but the picturesque countryside is an easy hour's drive from the city...once you make your way out of Paris' traffic congestion. I visited both Giverny and Versailles in the same day, but I wouldn't recommend doing so, even for the most hearty soul. Giverny has much to offer, including a so-called Museum of Impressionism (which is more museum than Impressionism). Versailles, on the other hand, is overwhelming in its scope and content, and well worth an entire day, dividing one's time between the palace, the gardens, the souvenir shops, and the quaint sidewalk cafes lining the streets near the royal getaway. There you can relax with a glass of wine and ponder the striking differences between Monet's gardens, and his way of life, as compared to the highly regimented fountains and greenery of Louis XIV and his rigid royal existence.

Copyright, Jim Lane
The Giverny gardens from Monet's front steps.
An illustrated map of the Giverny area... How's your French?


No comments:

Post a Comment