The Claude Monet house and gardens in Giverny, France attracts 500,000 visitors each year. Many come because they love the paintings of this leader of the Impressionist movement. Others come just because of the beauty of the property. Indeed, a visit to the Monet property is like stepping into a painting of a beautiful garden.
Monet at Giverny
In 1893, Monet brought Alice Hoschede, soon to be his second wife, and their family to Giverny, a small village in Normandy, not far from Rouen. Although Monet was to take frequent painting expeditions to other places in France and England, Giverny became the painter's base of operations until his death in 1926.
At first, Monet rented the Giverny property, which had been the home of a local winemaker. The painter set up a studio in the house and subsequently built another studio in the former barn.
Monet had always been interested in flowers and he became a keen gardener. Therefore, he set about transforming the apple orchard that lay in front of the house into a French-style formal garden. In addition to planting flowerbeds, he replaced the apple trees with flowering cherry and apricot trees. This was all done with an eye toward perspective and composition. This garden known as the “Clos Normand” features in many of Monet's paintings.
By 1890, Monet had become a successful painter. Therefore, on November 19, 1890, he acquired title to the Giverny property. As time went on, he hired a small army of gardeners to tend his garden. However, he remained intensely interested in the garden, touring it several times a day.
In 1893, Monet purchased a parcel of land on the other side of the railway line adjoining the Clos Normand. He had an interest in Japanese prints and had seen a water garden at the Universal Exhibition of Paris in 1889 and so he thought that he would transform this parcel into a Japanese-style water garden. However, in order to do so, he needed permission from the local government. Local farmers and laundresses protested arguing that Monet's strange plants might poison cattle and dirty the river water in which they washed clothes. Nonetheless, Monet was given permission to proceed.
The centerpiece of the new Water Garden was a pond that Monet created. Across a narrow point, he constructed a Japanese bridge in 1895.
Monet decided to expand the Water Garden in 1901 and purchased another parcel adjoining the Water Garden. Again, he obtained governmental permission for his plans despite protests from locals who still regarded him as a Parisian outsider obsessed with flowers.
The expanded Water Garden featured a much larger pond, which incorporated the original pond. Monet planted bamboo, weeping willows, maple trees and water lilies, which were still somewhat rare in Europe. He also designed curving paths through the plantings, which created a variety of vistas, many of which he depicted in the paintings he subsequently did of the Water Garden.
After Monet's death in 1926, the property was inherited by his son Michel Monet. However, Michel had other interests and so Blanche Hoschede-Monet, his half sister and widow of Monet's son Jean, occupied the family property until her death in 1947.
In 1966, Michel died and the property was bequeathed to the Academie des Beaux Arts. The property had deteriorated badly since Blache's death. The gardens had become overgrown and the artist's home and studios suffered damage from damp.
There were no funds to restore the property until Gerald Van der Kamp, who had been instrumental in restoring the Palace of Versailles, was put in charge of restoring the Monet property. Together with his wife Florence, he raised sufficient funds, chiefly from American sources, to begin restoration.
Restoring the property was a difficult task since it had been all but abandoned for many years. However, the restorers did have Monet's paintings for guidance. In addition, when Monet became successful numerous artists and tourists came to Giverny to see him. Monet did not want disciples but he tolerated these visitors who took numerous photographs of the house and his gardens. These photographs were of great assistance to the restorers.
In 1980, the property was opened to the public. It is operated by the Foundation Claude Monet, which is owned by the Academie des Beaux Arts
For more places to see art
See our Places to See Art index
For today's visitors, there are three components to the Monet property.
First, there is the house in which the Monet family lived. It is a long, low house, not particularly distinguished architecturally. Its importance lies in the fact that Claude Monet lived there.
Inside, the house has been restored to look like it did in the late 19th century with period furnishings. Visitors can see Monet's office/studio, the bedrooms, the bathroom, the kitchen and the pantry. Copies of Japanese prints hang on the walls as do copies of paintings by Monet and by his friends such as Cezanne and Renoir. (All of the remaining original Monet works were transferred to museums after his death. However, some original Monets are exhibited from time to time at the Impressionist Museum Giverny, which is just down the street from Monet's property).
Adjoining the house is a building constructed in 1914 to act as a studio for creating the large canvases of Monet's Water Lilies series. It is now the property's shop.
The second component of the Monet property is the Clos Normand. Lying in front of the house, this is a formal garden laid out in a geometric patterns. In the Spring and Summer, its beds are full of blooming flowers.
After traveling through an underpass, you reach the third component of the Monet property. In contrast to the Clos Normand, this appears to be a much more naturalistic garden. However, its exotic plants and layout are the product of careful design by Monet and his gardeners. The key feature here is the pond with its Japanese bridge.
Even if you have never been to Giverny, it will look familiar if you have seen Monet's paintings. Although Monet is sometimes cited as a forerunner of abstraction, it is remarkable how well the paintings captured the look and feel of reality.
For more information on visiting, see the Foundation Claude Moent website.
Places to see art - - Giverny, France - - Monet House and Gardens