Any art lover can recognize and be inspired by a painting from one of history’s most famous art masters, Claude Monet. His paintings depict a variety of landscapes and architecture, including his pieces entitled “A Stormy Sea” and “Jean-Pierre Hoschedé and Michel Monet on the Banks of the Epte”. Some of his most loved paintings were created following his move to Giverny, France, where he painted his tranquil gardens.
Monet was known to say that his “greatest creation” wasn’t his art, but his garden in Giverny. His garden was filled with water lilies, tulips, dahlias and more. Also in the garden, a small, soon-to-be-iconic, Japanese-styled bridge arches over his pond, as seen in his 1889 painting, “Bridge Over A Pond of Water Lilies.”
It is said that to truly know and understand Monet, one must see his garden at Giverny. And so, we bring you 7 interesting facts about Monet’s garden and its influence on his impressionist style.
In the earlier part of his life, Monet experienced a considerable amount of negativity and hardship. There was a constant struggle against his unsympathetic parents, harsh critics, and a lack of buyers which resulted in financial difficulty. With parents who disowned him, Monet’s debt increased to high levels and eventually his creditors began to take his canvases away in retaliation.
Then in 1883 after arriving in Giverny, Monet's career took a turn for the better; the public began to take interest in his paintings and he began to draw in some income. As he became more financially stable, Monet was able to purchase more plants, space, and gardeners to help build the amazing garden we can still see today.
The Artist's Garden at Giverny, 1900, Claude Monet (Photo Source: claude-monet)
Through a train window, Monet spotted the quaint village of Giverny. This charming village leads Monet to get off the train and walk into the first pub and take a seat. Once grabbing a big jug of cider and talking to the local villagers, Monet learned that a local carpenter had a farm that he did not need. From this, the famous painter began to rent the property in 1883 and his journey of painting the flowers at Giverny began.
Before discovering the garden at Giverny, Monet had painted what others had created. Locations such as the haystacks, steam locomotives, and the bank of River Epte provided great inspiration for the artist. But to Monet, his garden at Giverny was the first time he could create what he wanted to paint. Monet built a huge pond from a small stream and filled it with dozens of water lilies. His gardens were messy yet balanced with willows and shrubbery. His family members helped to preserve and expand his garden before Monet could afford gardening staff. Together, they created the garden that today brings in hundreds of thousands of visitors to Giverny each year.
Bridge over a Pond of Water Lilies, 1899, Claude Monet (Credit: H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929)
During the last 30 years of his life, Monet had created over 250 water lily paintings. At the beginning of his time in Giverny when Monet purchased more property and attained a riverbed, he envisioned adding a pond to his property. This water garden required the import of water lilies from Egypt and South Africa. However, his neighbours and local council members objected to this, thinking that these unknown flowers would poison their waters. Luckily, Monet ignored their request and proceeded anyway. Had he not, his iconic water lily series would not exist!
With hundreds of different species of plants, precious waterlilies, and a Japanese bridge stretching across the pond, Monet’s inspiration was his garden. He spent countless hours paintings outdoors – something unprecedented prior to Monet.
Giverny drew in a colony of foreign artists because of the village's light, air, and colour. Each equally inspired to paint greatness, the village began to be crowded with artists. Considering them a nuisance, Monet remained out of contact with these artists through the sanctuary of his garden. From here he painted the water lilies series – the first series to ever be completed by the artist.
As Monet began to sell more paintings and his wealth grew, he hired a team of gardeners to continue planting and taking care of his garden. Eventually, one gardener’s role was to dust off the waterlilies each morning so that he could paint them perfectly!
When World War I broke out in France, Monet’s family members went off to war and those who could flee the country did. However, to Monet, his paintings and garden were everything; they were his patriotic gift to France. When painting in Giverny, the artist was aware of the devastation surrounding him. From his property gunshots would go off, explosives could be heard, and thousands of French soldiers were dying around him. “…if those savages must kill me, it will be in the middle of my canvases, in front of all my life’s work.”
During this period, Monet painted far more than any other painter. A select number of his paintings were offered as patriotic gifts to the French State following the war. The day after the war officially ended, Monet vowed to create a ‘monument to peace’. As such, his grandest and largest paintings, which are now on display at The Musee de L’Orangerie, were dedicated to the French nation.
Claude Monet in front of his House at Giverny, 1921 (collection: Musée d’Orsay, Paris)
While it’s not hard to appreciate Monet’s paintings and level of skill the artist possessed, often the source of one’s inspiration is given lesser attention. We hope that these interesting facts about Monet’s gardens help you learn more about the artists and the importance of Giverny to him.