It’s highly likely that you’ve laid eyes on Monet’s water lily paintings either at a gallery or through reproductions on umbrellas and mugs. The pastel-colored water lilies have a mass audience appeal and have become iconic examples of the entire Impressionist movement. Because of his success, Monet’s house and gardens in Giverny is a popular attraction in France. Here’s what to expect when visiting Monet’s gardens in Giverny.
The opportunity for me to visit Giverny came when I visited Paris in the summer. It’s always nice to venture out of Paris to see sights beyond the capital. Since I had always taught my students to paint Monet’s Japanese bridge, it was an easy decision to visit Monet’s House, which is now under the care of the Fondation Claude Monet.
Giverny is a village 75 km from Paris in the Normandy region of France. It takes about 85 minutes to get there by car or bus and just under an hour by train to the Vernon station. From April to October, there is a shuttle bus that links Vernon to the main parking lot in Giverny, which is 4 km away.
The main attraction in Giverny is Monet’s House and the Museum of Impressionism Giverny. You can walk through the entire village in a few minutes, or you can stroll leisurely and visit the handful of artisan shops and cafés.
The massive garden leading to Monet’s house almost overshadows the actual house. But once you get a glimpse of the long pink building, you can see that the house stretches from one side of the garden to the studio. This is where Claude Monet lived for 43 years with his second wife, Alice and their children from previous marriages.
The interior reflects a traditional French country home. Visitors snake through the well-preserved rooms admiring the decor, photographs, and artworks displayed on the walls.
In another building, the Nymphéas studio where Monet painted his water lily series is now the museum’s gift shop.
As well as being an accomplished artist, Monet was also an avid horticulturist. The huge art geek in me was so psyched walking through Monet’s Water Garden. I had admired so many of Monet’s Nymphéas paintings at museums including Musée de L’Orangerie, Musée D’Orsay, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the National Gallery – it was completely mesmerizing to see the paintings come to life!
There are two separate gardens on Monet’s property: the flower gardens in front of the pink house and the water gardens with the renowned Japanese bridge. The vibrant flowers that bloom in the impressive gardens make up the palette Monet used in his work. Some of these flowers include orchids, tulips, sunflowers, irises, roses, wisteria, dahlias, and daffodils.
To get to the water gardens, you have to walk through a subterranean tunnel before re-emerging near a forest of bamboo. The water lilies weren’t quite open in the morning, but by the time I left around noon, the flowers began to open up.
The green footbridge appears in many of Monet’s paintings. The scintillating pond water was like a mirror reflecting the very environment that was the subject of so many of his paintings.
Fun fact: During the Impressionist period in late 1800’s, many European artists were influenced by Japanese woodblock prints. Many of Van Gogh’s paintings also reflected this interest in Japonism – the study of Japanese colors, compositions, lines, and forms.
Have you been to Giverny? What did you think?