Inspiration in Monet's Gardens

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  Inspiration in Monet's Gardens

We travel to France to visit a legend

 Monet's Gardens at Giverny photo John Hulsey
View from the Second Story Bedroom Looking out over the Clos Normand

  For artists with a passion for flowers and gardens, Monet's gardens in Giverny are the ultimate destination. After completing a wonderful painting workshop in Provence, John and I took the TGV train back north to Paris, where we spent a few days enjoying the city and making a special trip to Giverny. After years of reading about Monet's life and gardens, this was the icing on the cake for us. The gardens are located in the Valley of the River Epte, about 50 miles west of Paris and took ten years to restore, finally opening to the public in 1980. Monet lived in his home in Giverny for almost 43 years (from 1883 to 1926) slowly developing the gardens as inspiration for his impressionistic paintings. He initially developed the gardens near the house, which he called the Clos Normand. Ten years later, in 1893, he built the water garden, after he was able to purchase additional land across the road. The water garden was based on designs from Monet's Japaneses prints, and was enlarged over time to include more bridges and plantings.  His passion for color is seen in both his large canvases and in the way he designed his gardens—brilliant strokes of blooming color.   "All my money goes into the garden", he said, adding, "I am in raptures."  The German art historian Julius Meier-Graefe concluded after seeing them:  "Monet reveals himself best . . . in the garden he has planted about his country house. He has made it on the same priciple as his pictures . . . Every individual blossom contributes to the mass of color."

   The large amount of visitors makes even sketching on location difficult, so inspiration from the gardens is limited to soaking in the light and colors, the air and fragrance, and using the camera for visual references. Visit:

   We visited the gardens in April, during peak bloom time for tulips. Several hundred different varieties of tulips are planted by the eight gardeners who maintain the property. The masses of blooming red tulips floating in clouds of blue myosostis in the Clos Normand were particularly joyful and inspiring in their brilliant color and arrangement.

photograph of Tulips and Myosotis in Monet's Gardens by John Hulsey  It is hard to describe the dreamlike sensation of standing in such an artistically historic spot, and one is acutely aware of the differences between the photographs seen and admired over the years, and the new impressions of scale, dimension, color and light. The feeling is as if one has walked right into a painting, and yet not quite, for we see immediately all the artistic adjustments and interpretations with which Monet infused his work. It may be that to fully appreciate his paintings, it is essential to visit his subject matter, for the garden is as much a work of art as the paintings which followed.  We owe a debt of gratitude to those who made the enormous investment in the restoration of these magnificent gardens and the house/studios.

Photograph of Pansies and Tulips in Monet's Gardens, Giverny, France, by Ann Trusty   Walkway in Monet's Gardens
                                                            In the Clos Normand                                                       

  The estate is divided into two distinct areas—the walled gardens at the house and the waterlily ponds with willow trees, wisteria and the famous green Japanese bridges. In order to visit the water gardens, visitors must use a tunnel built under the road which brings them safely up into the entrance of the water garden where they are greeted with a complete change of space, light and plants. The transition from the subterranean gloom up into the light and soaring space of the magical water garden is a wonderful reawakening into the second world of Monet's creation. Though the gardens can be crowded at times, we were able to find a bench near the pond and just sit quietly, enjoying the tableaux and the pleasant spring weather.  What a wonderful thing it would be to build a pond for ourselves, we mused.  Thanks to Monet's example, we could instantly appreciate the aesthetic potential of such an endeavor, and it remains on our to-do list for the near future. Until then, we are satisfied to know that we can always visit Giverny again and again, and each time find new inspiration in his living work of art.

photograph of path in Monet's water garden, Giverny, France, by John Hulsey
                                                    Along the path in the water garden

   Photograph of Monet's water garden, Giverny, France, by Ann Trusty          Photograph of Monet's Waterlily Ponds, Giverny, France, by Ann Trusty

   Using flowers as paints and the landscape as canvas is not unique to Monet and his gardens, of course, so we visit artists' gardens whenever possible in our travels in order to take in the inspiration and beauty created by painters in their gardens.  However, the Master of Impressionism was most certainly the Master of the Garden and has left us two wonderful gifts in his paintings and in his flower-filled house and grounds.

Monet's House at Giverny with Tulips


Photograph of Monet's gardens, Giverny, France, by Ann Trusty

                                               The arched walkway in the Clos Normand

To get to Giverny from Paris:
By train:
The Vernon station is situated on the main line Paris/Rouen/Le Havre.  It starts from the Gare St. Lazarre Paris station, which has not changed much since Monet painted it.  The fastest trains complete the journey in less than 45 minutes.
In the Metro, take the SNCF-Grandes Lignes exit.  Buy a ticket to Vernon.  The Rouen line departs from the right side of the platform, in the 'Grandes-Lignes' section.
By Road:
Vernon is 70km from Paris.  Leave Paris by the Pont de Saint-Cloud and take the highway A13(towards Rouen) for 55km until you reach exit 14 (Bonnieres) or exit 16 (Douains).  The A13 is free until Mantes-la-Jolie.  After the exit follow Vernon or Giverny signs.

Copyright Hulsey Trusty Designs, L.L.C. (except where noted). All rights reserved.
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