It wasn't at all as I expected, Monet's House and Garden in Giverny. I envisioned a quiet estate, square or round in shape, with a long driveway that would lead to the front. I imagined it unconnected from the noisy, harried world. Instead, it was located in a busy village, where motorists pass right through the middle of the two pieces of land that make up Monet's House and Garden. And yet, Claude Monet managed to create a oasis for a seemingly infinite variety of species in the most unexpected of spaces.
On one side of the road, sits his home with a flower garden that slopes down to the road. Designed by Monet himself, the garden seems to be a mass of organized chaos. The simplest flowers, such as daisies and poppies are mixed in with the most rare varieties.
Not a fan of constrained gardens, Monet married flowers according to colors and let them grow freely. His passion for botany grew and each year he'd exchange plants with friends, always on the look out for rare varieties.
On the other side, the infamous water garden with Japanese bridge. In 1893, ten years after his arrival at Giverny, Monet bought the piece of land neighbouring his property on the other side of the railway. It was crossed by a small brook, the Ru. Monet created his first small pond , much to the opposition of his peasant neighbours who feared his strange plants would poison the water. Later on the pond would be enlarged to its present day size. Full of of asymmetries and curves, the water garden was inspired by the Japanese gardens that Monet knew from the prints he collected.
For more than 20 years, Monet found his inspiration in this water garden. Always looking for mist and transparencies, he dedicated his work less to flowers than to reflections in water-- an inverted world transfigured by the liquid element.
Never a strong admirer of Monet's paintings, I was struck by the brilliance of his technique 12 years ago when I first saw his original piece in person, Cathedral of Rouen at the Musée D'Orsay in Paris. Seeing his work in person makes a huge difference to appreciation of his skill. Since then, Giverny had been on my list of places to visit. Like his paintings, his gardens were sedate, tranquil and serene.
Being partial to tortured Impressionists such as Van Gogh and Cezanne, I find myself appreciating Monet's artistic expression in the garden itself that he designed and created more than his paintings. Yet, I'm inspired to try my hand at impressionism with the camera.
It's a hot and muggy day. Hundreds of visitors make their way among the two gardens. A woman and her two children sit and sketch water lilies on the Japanese bridge. Essentially blocking most passerby who must carefully step around them. To our admittedly untrained eyes, none of the amateur artists are doing a particularly good job. And we ponder: just what lesson is she really teaching her children?
Mr. Wild Dingo and I muse over Loki and Juno's own appreciation for the culmination of art, history and nature. They would totally love this garden and be on their best behavior. Of course.
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