Claude Monet became one of the most important painters in the history of Art. Born and educated in Paris, he traveled around Europe – living in London during the Franco-Prussian War. After the war he returned to France, but disliking living in Paris, he chose to live in surrounding towns including Argenteuil, Vétheuil, and then in 1893 moving to Giverny.
Giverny is in the Normandy region of France about 50 miles north of Paris. When Monet saw Giverny while traveling on a train, it was a small town with a few hundred residents and two roads. Most the inhabitants were farmers, and indeed Monet rented a farmhouse, called “House of the Cider-Press”, on an orchard. Also on the property was a barn, which would become his studio. As his reputation and success grew, Monet was eventually able to buy the house and surrounding land. This would eventually evolve into one of the most inspirational settings of his art and lead to his most well-known works.
After purchasing the land in 1890, Monet began cultivating the garden. The grounds are made up of two gardens – the Clos Normand and the water garden. The Clos Normand sits closest to the house. It is here where the apple orchard was along with a few trees that Monet had cut down. The final vision Monet had for this front garden resulted in a main aisle with flower beds on each side. Spanning the aisle are metal arches, which in season climbing roses grow along. The garden was designed to have interest throughout the year. In spring and summer it is filled with bright colors: yellow, lavender, and violets. In the cooler months, sunflowers and red and orange dahlias dominate the landscape. Dozens of types of flowers make up the garden, arranged by color and size to create depth. Monet’s garden plans walk the thin line between natural growth and organized cultivation.
The second area of gardens, the water gardens, is accessible by way of a tunnel under a crossing road. For the water gardens, Monet looked to Japanese gardens for inspiration. A collector of Japanese woodcut prints, Monet always appreciated the aesthetic and visual qualities of Japanese art and was able to bring that to his garden. After purchasing more land in 1893, Monet had a small creek rerouted to fill a pond. Surrounding the pond he would plant willow trees, poplar, azaleas, climbing roses, peonies, and bamboo. It is in this garden that he had his famous Japanese bridge built, spanning the large pond. Below the bridge, in the water, Monet brought in water lilies of many varieties. These would bring about some of the most important developments in his art bringing in a new era of modern art.
Monet lived at the house in Giverny until his death in 1926. While in the gardens he painted some of his most famous works including the Japanese Footbridge series, Water Lilies, and paintings of his weeping willow trees.