At Large  August 9, 2023  Rebecca Schiffman

Explore Claude Monet's Iconic Garden at Giverny

Photo: Rebecca Schiffman

View of the Water Lily Pond at Claude Monet’s Garden in Giverny, France.

An hour outside of Paris, tucked into the hills, pastures, and winding roads of Normandy, is the village of Giverny which houses a small oasis that brings visitors into the garden, home, and world of Impressionist painter Claude Monet (1840-1926). Having settled in Giverny in 1883, Monet spent over four decades nurturing a flourishing garden that has become almost as iconic as his celebrated artworks. 

Stepping into his sanctuary, which is now overseen by Fondation Claude Monet and sees some 500,000 visitors per year (according to the website), one concurrently steps back in time to feel, smell, and see the essence of Monet—the artist, gardener, and father—and his creative spirit. In Giverny, wildflowers intermingle with herbs, succulents, and cultivated flowers from around the world, producing an overwhelming aura of sensations and making site a destination you have to visit if you find yourself in Paris during the warmer months.

Rebecca Schiffman

A sign that directs visitors to the Water Lily Pond at Claude Monet’s Garden in Giverny.

Giverny is a testament to Monet’s unyielding passion for painting outdoors, en plein air, and the nature that he encountered while spending time outside. When he bought the site, it was just a patch of land with an abandoned pink house and an accompanying apple orchard. With his ambition and extensive knowledge of botany and horticulture, Monet set off to transform this once-drab property into the garden of his dreams, a symphony of colors that would allow him to render the paintings of the French countryside. 

His legendary integrity extended as much to his garden as it did to his paintings. For example, he insisted that the house’s facade be kept the same shade of pink as it had when originally constructed. Though Monet traveled extensively, he regularly checked up on his gardens, oftentimes sending letters to his wife and family only to inquire about the status of the soil or if the flowers had yet bloomed.

 

Wikimedia Commons

Claude Monet, Water Lilies and the Japanese Bridge, 1897–1899. Princeton University Art Museum

 

Monet organized the garden into two distinct sections: the Clos Normand and the Water Garden. The Clos Normand, which was once the apple orchard, is the main section of the garden. Almost as soon as he was settled, Monet uprooted the orchard and began to section it off: in one area he added cherry and Japanese apricot trees and in another, nasturtiums and roses were planted. The main ground became a melange of various flowers and varieties: from daffodils to tulips, narcissus to iris, poppies to peonies—the list goes on and on. 

For a painter, it was of great importance to plant the flowers with perspective in mind. Monet aimed to ensure that when his flowers bloomed, his future compositions would be balanced and aesthetically interesting. Thus he used natural facets such as wind and shade to curate a collection of blossoms that would work well with one another both in their growth and in their color palettes.

View of the Water Lily Pond at Monet’s Garden in Giverny.
Rebecca Schiffman

View of the Water Lily Pond at Monet’s Garden in Giverny.

Monet’s Garden in Giverny, Roses on the trellis that was once part of the apple orchard.
Rebecca Schiffman

Monet’s Garden in Giverny, Roses on the trellis that was once part of the apple orchard.

Monet’s Garden in Giverny, view of the main house
Rebecca Schiffman

View of the main house at Monet’s Garden in Giverny.

Monet’s Garden in Giverny, Foxglove flowers in the garden surrounding the Water Lily Pond.
Rebecca Schiffman

Monet’s Garden in Giverny, Foxglove flowers in the garden surrounding the Water Lily Pond.

Sign directing visitors to the Water Lily Pond at Monet’s Garden in Giverny.
Rebecca Schiffman

Sign directing visitors to the Water Lily Pond at Monet’s Garden in Giverny.

View of the Clos Normand at Monet’s Garden in Giverny.
Rebecca Schiffman

View of the Clos Normand at Monet’s Garden in Giverny. 

Most would recognize Monet’s garden by the second section, the Water Garden, which is featured in many of his paintings. Monet’s deep interests in nature and the Far East combine in the Water Garden with its lily pad-filled pond and Japanese-inspired bridge. Here, Monet planted exotic plants from Asia including bamboo, ginkgo, lilies, and more. Many would be surprised to find out that it wasn’t until 1897, over a decade after he moved to Giverny, that Monet painted his water lilies, which are so renowned they have become synonymous with the artist himself.

Giverny reveals Claude Monet as not only a pioneer of Impressionism but also a master gardener who cultivated nature’s beauty with the same rigor, inventiveness and attention to detail that he applied to his art. The gardens are a testament to his unyielding dedication, reflecting his artistic vision that continues to captivate and inspire visitors from around the world. 

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