I’m not very cluey about art. All my knowledge would comfortably fit on the back of the “Mona Lisa”, even in my largest, most flamboyant scrawl. I like what I like, and I don’t like a lot of what I’ve seen to date. Ergo, my knowledge of Claude Monet, both the man and his work, is limited. But when in Giverny, as I was briefly this week, a visit to the revered artist’s house and gardens is a must.
Monsieur Monet was a founder of French Impressionism. Significantly, he and his pioneering colleagues painted landscapes outside, facing the elements, capturing nature in motion. Monet was chasing light, chasing time, on a quest to capture ‘real’ moments – paving the way for the torrent of Instagramming tourists that steadily pours through his property today.
The two-storey Monet house is large but modestly furnished, offering a glimpse into the painter’s life in the early 1900s. The flower garden in front is a wild explosion of colour, a joyous celebration of nature’s beauty. It’s a living paintbox of contrasting hues, with dazzling splashes of colour vying for your attention. The rose-laden arches are particularly gorgeous.
The pièce de résistance however (and serious click-bait for those wielding selfie sticks) is the water garden. Picture Monet’s popular artwork, “The Water Lily Pond” (1899). This here is the real thing, iconic bridge and all. Accessible from the flower garden via a short underground walkway, this is a space of genuine sensory splendour. Though no doubt meticulously landscaped and maintained, as with the rest of the grounds, it feels random, natural, untouched and real. And so tranquil. It is inspirational, and nourishing for the soul.
Dappled light gently kisses the lily pads. Beyond the pond, a serene, green, breathing border of foliage perfectly frames the scene. It’s undeniably stunning. If you really concentrate, you can block out all the (other) tourists, and then it’s just you, immersed in a spectacular, living painting.
The second most visited tourist site in Normandy (after the Mont St Michel), this pretty place is definitely worth a look.
“The richness I achieve comes from Nature, the source of my inspiration”. – Claude Monet
84 rue Claude Monet, Giverny, France 27620 (Access to house, gardens & shop). Open 9.30am-6pm, late March – late October.