My Travel Book - With Claude Monet in Giverny - France

"Nymphéas" by Claude Monet

Basically, I am an art lover. I spend a lot of time in museums and galleries and art exhibits. Lucky me, I know. Sometimes when my life gets really hard, there is nothing more positive than thinking about a beautiful painting or a sculpture or... or... So many images, all of them arousing a torrent of passion. (It works so well for me and yes, I am this crazy!)

Some painters became my friends throughout my life. Friends as in
Anais Nin’s quote: "Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born."

I love Van Gogh. I love Hieronymus Bosch. I love Goya. I love El Greco and so many, so many others. Don’t get me started!

But there is one painter I would spend so much time with and luckily I do spend a lot of time with him since he is French and you find a lot of his paintings in Paris.

I am pretty sure that as I write Claude Monet’s name, a smile appears on your face.

Monet and Impressionism. Monet and his subtle touch on ephemeral colors, feelings... impressions... Claude Monet, one of France’s most celebrated painters.

In 2010, there was a retrospective of his works at the Grand Palais in Paris. 900.000 people went there, sometimes queuing for hours to try to have a glance at paintings so famous and yet so fascinating.

I went there several times, being lucky enough to own a pass that allowed me to avoid the crowd, more or less. The exhibit closed in January 2011 but there are still a lot of Monet’s paintings to be seen in Paris.

Go to Le Louvre, to Musée d’Orsay and to Musée Marmottan (dedicated to Monet and his Impressionists friends). Do not forget to spend some lovely and peaceful moments at the Musée de l’Orangerie, right in the Jardin des Tuileries. This is where you’ll find the most impressive series of the Water Lilies (Nymphéas), offered by Monet to the French people as a whole. Nice gesture! Priceless paintings. Pure beauty.

But if you are staying a tiny bit longer in the Paris area, try to go to Giverny. It is a small village in Normandy, 80 kms west of Paris. You’ll find how to get there on this page...

Why Giverny? Well, this is where Monet chose to live with his family in 1883 until his death in 1923. And this is where he had the famous pond with water lilies done.

The first time I went there I remember being quite surprised. The pond is quite small. The garden is not huge either... And then I realized why Monet was such a great painter. His Nymphéas paintings are boundless, true to the artist’s infinite vision.

The house itself is lovely. A little bit surprisingly pink, considering the houses in the area but so lovely. Monet’s paintings are all about color, aren’t they. It is not possible to visit the whole house but the curators have opened a few rooms, enough to get a feeling of Monet’s life there with his wife Camille and their two sons and Alice Hoschedé and her six children. Yellow walls. Blue gingham curtains. Shining copper kitchen utensils. Friendly and huge wooden kitchen table...

Do not expect to see real paintings on the walls. Copies only. Impressive number though. Who cares about seeing a real Monet’s painting there though? Aren’t we right in the heart of his paintings in Giverny?

After visiting the house, you follow the crowd through the garden which has been kept the way Monet designed it and you’ll find in it all the flowers he kept painting...

Monet painting in his garden, surrounded by children shouting and laughing. Monet painting in his garden surrounded by friends, some of them very famous.

And then you get to the pond.

And there, they are, the Nymphéas... in the small pond. Just the way they were when Monet was painting them. And the weeping willows too.

There are people all over the place and yet you feel so overcome by the atmosphere that you only hear peaceful chirping and you suddenly feel like Monet is so close to you, sitting by his easel, translating his impressions to the canvas. So real. Amazingly real because it is so easy to watch the pond and see the paintings.

I know I am a daydreamer. Maybe you’ll only see the real water lilies and this will be great too because the pond is truly a bewitching place.  

There is a flowering calendar of Monet’s garden. It says that the nymphéas (water lilies) only start flowering in July. I have been there mid-June and they already were in full bloom.

Memories and pictures work so well in my life. Right now, I am in Brittany, weathering a tempest. The scenery is breathtaking. The wind is howling all around the house. No gulls in the sky. Hares, rabbits and birds are gone in hiding. From time to time, the rain lashes against the window panes.

But there I am in Giverny too, enjoying so much peace and quiet! So lucky. So happy.

"Nymphéas" by Claude Monet

"Nymphéas" by Claude Monet

*Good Luck, and Good Night*

1 comment:

Myrna said...

This was Patrick's favorite place in France. You share an admiration for Monet. And his garden.