While Paris is full of places to explore, there are many iconic landscapes just beyond its city limits. About an hour and a half outside of Paris is Giverny. Located within Normandy, Giverny is home to the retirement home of Claude Monet and his gardens in a small village that was frequented by many other famous impressionist painters from the 19th century until today.
In 1840, an inventor named William Windsor patented the first portable paint tube. This meant that artists were no longer stuck painting for hours inside the studio. They were now freed from the confines of the artificial lighting from the studio, to take their paint supplies outside and paint in the fresh « open-air ». This inspired a young artist named Eugène Boudin, a Norman native, to paint the seaside of which he so fondly grew up with. He took his acrylics, easel, and supplies out into nature where he worked solely with the true and ever-changing light of the Normandy sun. Here, the roots of Impressionism were planted, and continued over time, inspiring and encouraging artists to attempt in capturing the movements of nature in relation to moving light forms within the open spaces of the world.
Specific to Giverny however, is a landscape memorable to the success of Claude Monet and his glorious Water Lillies, which can be found in L’Orangerie Museum, Paris. After experiencing this day trip to Giverny with a tour company, I asked the guide for their exact explanation on the garden, which is as follows:
“After an already successful life, by the time Monet reached his mid 40s, he was ready to settle down in Giverny and started to work on his Japanese garden, inspired by the Asiatic masterpieces and the Japanese movement called Ukiyo-e (translates to: pictures in the floating world), collecting prints of his same era but on the other side of the world by Utagawa Hiroshige. He added a Japanese garden to his home, inspired by the land. He started by diverting a river to form a pond, he planted willows and bamboo on the shores, and filled the pond with waterlilies. The wandering paths contrasted the controlled and geometric garden shapes of the traditional English style impressionist garden. The movement of these wandering paths allowed for a certain fengshui and peace he needed for painting inspiration. He wanted to make a « cross-over » point by adding a wooden footbridge, which eventually became overgrown with beautiful blooming wisteria. He started to paint at different times of the year, some with bright spring blossoms and shimmering sunlight, others snow-covered and sunset-dappled.”
Upon passing through the garden, visitors pass Monet’s house and are welcomed inside to view his bright blue kitchen to his yellow dining room, and every room in between.
Giverny however, is not just Monet’s home, but also houses a cute village filled with amazing art galleries, shops, resturants, parks for picnics, a poppy garden, Museum of Impressionism and Church Sainte-Radegonde, which holds the grave of J.C. Monet and a WWI & WWII War Monument.
Overall, spending a day in Giverny is all you need to explore the small city, picnic in gardens surrounded by flowers of all kinds, and escape the hustle and bustle of the ever busy, ever populated Paris.