Initially ridiculed yet eventually acclaimed impressionist and landscape painter Claude Monet was travelling through Giverny village in Normandy once when looking out of a train window he spotted a modest rural farm. Monet decided to move to this quiet corner of the earth together with his family. He signed a lease agreement for a 2 acre land property in 1883 and transformed a newly acquired barn into a painting studio. In 1890, Monet bought the land and started to transform and expand the already existing fruit and flower garden far beyond to what was typical for any rural household of that time.
En plein air, not studio painting is the creative technique of impressionists, whilst colors and capturing the very essence of the subject are more important than an event itself. That was Monet's approach to creating his garden, too. He applied artistic and well-thought out color transitions with purple, pink and orange blossoms splashing out in the most subtle hues and bringing out the beauty of the landscape.
A great talent shines through everything, and the garden landscape that Monet created seems like a vast and vibrant painting in itself. Every turn of the trail at Giverny garden brings new and amazing views - just pull out your easel and start creating! It's no surprise that the beauty of this garden keeps attracting numerous masters of the paintbrush till nowadays. Over a hundred of years Giverny garden with its hundreds of hues of zinnias, verbenas, numerous species of pelargonium, lilies, roses and other flowers creates a picture of peaceful harmony, devotedly waiting to be captured on canvas.
While Monet's garden at Giverny was already adorned by a red-leaf Japanese maple, slender bamboos and bright orange nasturtiums, seemingly naturally winding along pathways without ever being arranged by a human hand, the painter decided to expand it even further. In 1901, he purchased yet another plot of land spreading on the other side of the railway. It seemed to be a useless, swampy wetland, yet soon was turned into the famous water lily ponds. It coincided with the time when Monet became infatuated with Japanese culture. It reflected in his garden in the shape of the iconic green Japanese bridge, spanning a water lily pond that he painted throughout the seasons and daytime hours.
Water lilies became his favorite motif and he returned to them again and again every summer until the end of his life. Monet's water lily series painted between 1903 and 1908 are considered to be one of the greatest masterpieces of the 20th century art. Water lilies marked the end of Monet's creative career and he painted them being already almost blind.
Despite of his dimming eyesight, Monet managed to saturate his paintings with vivid sensations. Using crafty strokes, he put together colors almost without mixing, conjuring up an illusion that they create new hues blending together optically.
Maybe it's due to his cataracts that water lilies of this period are so large and monumental, as he was no longer able to depict tiny, filigree shapes.
Perhaps feeling that it's almost time for him to join his dear ones on the other side, Monet delved deeper into the symbolic meaning of water lilies. According to Japanese philosophy, a water lily garden symbolizes a reflection of a human soul. Similarly to a lotus flower, water lily's roots are embedded in the bottom of the pond, symbolizing our human flesh here and now. Its stem grows through the water, like our soul, but a flower is our spirit that strives towards the sky...
Monet's water lilies were his gift to the state of France and after his death were permanently installed in Musée de l'Orangerie - Orangerie Museum in Tuileries gardens, Paris. Two exhibition rooms were built especially for this purpose in 1927, giving visitors an impression that, as if by magic, they have landed in Monet's gardens in Giverny where these water lilies were once blooming in reality. If only there was a chance to spend some moments alone there and to linger a little longer into this sanctuary of Monet's soul...
July and August is the best time for visiting Giverny gardens. Yet even when the water lilies have fallen asleep, the garden continues to fascinate with colors, textures and shapes, alluring with plays of lights and shadows. It's exactly as Monet intended it to be, capturing the beauty of nature moment by moment and following the gradual changes of shades of colors throughout the seasons.
Photo: Vineta Radziņa/ www.labavide.lv
Keywords: Giverny, France, Monet, parks, gardens