SEASONAL MONET Nature as a work of art
One can only feel blessed when lost in the wanderlust of Monet’s grounds in Vernon. After a trip amid cold darkness the evening before, the morning opened to show the lush yet timid hills of Giverny as an explosion of green and changing color leaves entering through the window. It was evident that just a short walk from my hostess’s house, I would come to find Monet’s place of joy.
Less vast than I imagined, the land did not cease to unfold the magic of light and color at every step, multiplied by drops of rain gliding constantly from the leaves. If the stories about Monet are true, he would have gone back to bed succumbing to depression after observing the grey skies that peppered my visit, he would have mourned the absence of sunlight as a set back to the enthusiasm of his palette. Contrary to the master, I did not have 26 years to venture into the gardens according to the capricious change of atmosphere. My impressions were to be captured in a manner faithful to the painter’s credo: immersed into ‘the direct experience of life’.
A leisurely walk along the Rue Claude Monet opens on both sides other people’s gardens in an unruly and inspiring display, implausible unless nature is allowed to speak. Past the church of Sainte-Radegonde where the painter’s tomb remains, a long tapestry of crimson red foliage creeps onto faded pink walls, announcing the arrival to what once was Monet’s domain.
Guarded by a passage of stone and under a canopy of centenary Aspen trees, I entered the reverie of Impressionist painters. A few steps served to dissolve the ease of French country gardens by gradually presenting a seemingly misplaced bamboo forest, nothing I would have related to the Normandy landscape before. Slender figures tightly packed within an island-like formation, the bamboo trunks bend lazily over the thin streams of water that outline the back garden.
A detour from the perimeter, crossing a modest wooden bridge, reveals at last the first sight of the larger pond hosting the cup of waterlily leaves. It was impossible not to anticipate a blooming rainbow after observing the myriad of depictions Claude made of his spring garden. On the contrary, the view that fanned out in front of me was far more atypical and yet equally vibrant. Cadmium yellow, Sienna, Gold ochre and a deep spectrum of greens, intertwined in a mysterious and wondrous air I was less familiar with.
From what is thought to be more than 250 paintings of his Giverny garden, I could only recall a few which might have emerged from the landscape I was facing: The rose path, The Japanese Footbridge and Weeping Willow perhaps, all completed between 1920 and 1922. Keeping in mind the date of these paintings, I could not help but wonder whether the hues I remembered were born from Monet’s engagement with a new season or mainly the result of the yellowish clouding of his eyesight at the time. Less concerned with the faithful recounting of his catalogue raisonné, I continued my wander after spending more than a fair amount of time visually dissecting the garden; liquidambar branches peeked from some corners and cherry trees from others, while the waxy leaves of dormant irises emerging from the pond sent my eyes along the edge, and onto the falling leaves of the well-known weeping willows.
Leaving the curved bridge as the last part of my journey through the Asian inspired garden, I circled the pond among duotone shrubs, hoping to discern waterlily types from the shape of the floating leaves. An unfeasible task for me, I imagined it might have been a breeze for Monsieur Latour-Marliac, the obsessive horticulturalist who is said to have inspired Claude Monet to venture into breeding waterlilies. The Japanese bridge surrounded by wisteria vines. Once upon the bridge, more than the bridge itself, I marveled at the thickened wisteria branches that seductively overtook and mimicked the curved structure. Roaming back and forth a few times, I concluded my walk and secretly promised to myself that I as Monet, would see this garden —‘his greatest work of art’— through the lens of future changing seasons. RELATED ARTICLES A PRIVATE MUSEUM JOURNEY, The Slaoui Foundation Join us at the intersection of art, design and culture Email
Once upon the bridge, more than the bridge itself, I marveled at the thickened wisteria branches that seductively overtook and mimicked the curved structure. Roaming back and forth a few times, I concluded my walk and secretly promised to myself that I as Monet, would see this garden —‘his greatest work of art’— through the lens of future changing seasons.