‘Always looking for mist and transparencies, Monet would dedicate himself less to flowers than to reflections in water, a kind of inverted world transfigured by the liquid element.’
In 1883 Monet and his family began their lives at Giverny. So began his obsession to create a landscape of form and flowers to paint. Ten years later he bought a neighbouring plot, over the railway line to create the pond now forever captured in his painting of lilies and light. Inspired by Japanese art, Monet landscaped nature, his garden at Giverny, his legacy.
I have been to Giverny a number of times. Early morning train from Gare Saint-Lazare in Paris to the garden my mother spoke of so often in her life, yet never saw herself. I guess I go for her in a way, to whisper whilst walking – you would love it Mom, just as you told me Mom, wish you were here with me Mom.
It is all about the light. French vintage home, pebbled walks, spilling of colour. Pink on walls, fuchsia on trellis, hot colour walks, cool water stillness – even the wooden boat moored as if someone may just recline with a good book on a hot summer’s day. Blues and Greens and purples and lilac and vermilion and yellow and sky.
I grew up with the Impressionists. Name them all, their works, their histories, but only when in Europe did I see the works before me. The National Gallery, The Orangery, D’Orsay – I find them and stand there, just stand there and know there is passion in life. When life is small, they are immense and I think about their struggles, heartache and joyous fervour when life is at the end of their paintbrushes. Bow down to genius I do. Monet is different. Monet seemed happy though at times lost for the muse, the vision, but able to find God in flowers and domestic in his family life. He found his garden and in doing do, he found his art. Though well travelled and documented, it is here that contentment lives.
Sadly, the time I took my children there, the world came too.
It was August and August in France is not for the weak. As much as I tried to capture the ambiance of the water lilies, others were pushing for a spot along the walk. The lines are awful, the mystery shattered. I hope they will return when it is calmer and the ghost of Monet walks with them one day. They love the Impressionists, love Art, love gardens and I know they will return to find the magic that lies there. It touched a little, next time, to drown in the beauty of it all.
For me, once, I was alone and took my time to find the angles, the paintbrush poised before the eyes to find perspective, the lilies bopping gently on water. It was years before that took me back, to the man who rose with the early morning to capture the mist. A short walk away is the Hotel Baudy, more French, more characteristic I could not find. For lunch, a table beneath the trees on the edge of the meadow. Looking at the Baudy, I could imagine someone shaking sheets outside the windows, soldiers walking towards anger and away from those they loved. I revelled in the quaintness of simple cheese and wine at noon, laundry on the line, cows in the pasture and I immersed myself in history, in art and in rural France, on my own, notebook on the table and it is a feeling I remember and love.
If you love Art, The Impressionists and Monet, make Giverny a place to be. Not visit, but be. Once you have, the Water Lilies at the Orangery in the Tulleries will make so much more sense. Add more depth to your understanding of the artist and his subject. A day trip out of Paris. Reason enough to understand. A reason to realise that life is beautiful indeed.
Images Paris Vision, Victoria mag and Pintrest. Quote from Giverney