Entries from June 2008

Poetic Job

June 29, 2008

In his water garden at Giverny, Claude Monet had a dock adornated by arches of climbing roses.

It is especially beautiful in late June when the roses are in blossom, adding their pink to the greens of the foliages.
At Monet’s time there was a boat anchored at the dock. It was used mainly by the gardener devoted to the water garden.

This gardener had a special job: every morning he had to wash the water lilies. The road nearby made them dusty, Monet who wanted to paint them, wanted them to be clean.

The gardener used to get up very early in the morning, before the master would come, and tour the pond in the boat to push the flowers under the surface with the row to clean them.

Water lily washer, isn’t it a poetic job?

Seine Valley

June 27, 2008

Giverny lies in the Seine Valley. In geological times the river dug its valley in the tender limestone.

Now there are cliffs or steep hills on both sides of the river. When the hill faces north, it is covered by woods. When it is well oriented it used to be cultivated when Monet lived in Giverny, 100 years ago.

There were vineyards on the hills. Normandy is not a good place where to grow grapes, but our ancestors tried and made a wine which ranged between ‘almost not drinkable’ generally to ‘not too bad’ the best years.

It is not possible to judge, for it is not possible to taste it anymore. Even the eldest inhabitants of Giverny won’t tell, the vineyards disappeared before World War One. I don’t think anybody really regrets them.

To be an ant

June 22, 2008

Sometimes when I watch flowers in Claude Monet’s gardens at Giverny, I wonder what it can be like to be an ant.

It must be incredible to be able to walk in or on a flower, among these petals that look like candy.

Does an ant feel vertigo?

At the same time distances are so, so long when you are so tiny. And so many decisions have to be made all the time. Will this ant go on this way or go back to find another path?

The Archives tower at Vernon

June 18, 2008

Only three miles from Giverny, the town of Vernon is worth a visit.

This tower is the keep of the castle built in the 12th century by the French king Philip Augustus.

At this time Vernon was on the border with the kingdom of England. Strongholds were built on each side of the border materialised by a stream called the Epte.

The keep of Vernon was used during the 19th Century to store the town archives.

Now it is just a landmark of the town. It dominates a charming public garden called ‘jardin des Arts’, garden of the arts.

In Memoriam

June 15, 2008

The island bed located just under Monet’s windows at Giverny has a special meaning.

It doesn’t obey the rules Monet applied elsewhere in the garden to compose the flower beds. In fact, Monet didn’t create this one. It is a copy of an island bed he had seen and liked at his aunt Jeanne Lecadre.

Claude Monet painted the garden of his aunt several times when he was 26. On the canvases the same roses in trees and pink geraniums surrounded by dianthus can be seen, but they were painted at his aunt in Sainte Adresse, not in Giverny.

Monet copied this island bed to remember his youth and his aunt. She meant a lot to him, she encouraged him to become a painter.

Japanese Influence

June 11, 2008

Claude Monet was influenced by his extensive collection of Japanese woodblocks when he created his water garden.

He liked all the bamboos, wisterias, water lilies or peonies he could see on them and wanted these exotic plants in his garden.

He also loved the curved bridges which are so common on Japanese prints.

But although Monet knew pretty well the lay out of a Japanese garden thanks to his readings and to his neighbour American painter Lilla Cabbott Perry who had lived in Tokyo, he  took poetic license.
He didn’t intend to create a true Japanese garden. His bridges are much less bent than authentic ones, and they are green. In a true Japanese garden, they should be red.

Sky Lilies

June 10, 2008

Water lilies have their own dreams: being as light as soap bubbles and  float in the air…

Monet was fascinated by the reflection of the sky and the clouds.

When the water is absolutely still the surface of his lake is a perfect mirror.

The Nympheas seem to hang in the blue sky.


June 9, 2008

Claude Monet liked poppies, red poppies in the fields and pink poppies in his garden at Giverny.

His painting of his wife and son walking in a meadow full of poppies is one of the most famous of musée d’Orsay in Paris.

All the poppies are currently in bloom in his flower garden at Giverny, tiny or enormous, scarlet or pink, orange, yellow, some one color, some two. The pink and purple poppies are spectacular.

Monet preferred one color flowers but he also used two color flowers just as he could take two colors with his brush on his palette and put them in one gesture on the canvas.

Monet’s Entrance

June 8, 2008

Monet’s home in Giverny has three entrances, each one dedicated to a particular use.

This is typical for the time when the house was built, in the 19th century.

One door was devoted to Monet’s own use. It leads directly to his first studio and to the stairs to his bedroom. It enabled Monet to go in and out without disturbing the family life – he liked to get up exceedingly early in the morning – or perhaps without being disturbed by the family life – there were eight children in the family. This entrance could be called the professional one.

There was of course a main entrance for family members and guests.

The third one was a domestic entrance leading directly to the kitchen.

Rose Garden

June 6, 2008

Monet’s garden at Giverny is full of roses.

It is not a proper rose garden, for there are also many other sorts of flowers, but nonetheless it is gorgeous in May and June when the roses are in bloom.

They are everywhere, weeping from the umbrella like structures, climbing on trellises, on fences, on trees, on the facade of the house, wrapped around tripods, in bunches, or among peonies and sweet rocket in the mixed borders…

All sorts of colors can be seen, pale cream, pure white, soft yellow, many pinks, red, orange… Not all of them are simple roses but many are scented. Light and delight.

Weeping Willow

June 5, 2008

Monet was keen on painting through the weeping willow. It was difficult, and he liked the challenge.

There was the vertical axis of the branches and the horizontal axis of the floating water lilies.

In addition, the reflection of the sky looks like a hole in the water.

And Monet could even see the stems of the flowers under the surface.

When he painted here, he had to mix all the different plans to put them on the two dimensional canvas.

Strange House

June 4, 2008

This bizarre house overhanging the Seine river in Vernon, 5 km from Giverny, surprises and puzzles many visitors.

It seems so strange that somebody had the idea of building it this way!

 No wonder when you know that it once was a mill. The wheel doesn’t exist anymore. In the Middle Ages mills were currently built on bridges.

Monet was inspired by this old house. He painted it from his studio boat.  The painting is now in the museum of Fine Arts in New Orleans.

Simple Rose

June 2, 2008

Claude Monet preferred simple roses, with one row of petals instead of more complicated double roses.

Double flowers with many petals seemed too sophisticated for his garden located 80 km from Paris in the small village of Giverny, in the middle of the countryside.

Simple roses look like the wild ones which are currently in bloom in the fields.

In the same range of ideas Monet didn’t consider all the wild flowers like weed. He accepted many of them among the cultivated ones. They give sort of a countryside touch to his flower garden.