In Giverny, Monet, with obstinacy and patience, designed and created a garden with thousands of colorful flowers which became his source of inspiration for more than 25 years.
Monet, the Prince
When little Oscar – that’s how his family called him – left Paris, his birthplace, in 1845 to move to Le Havre, he didn’t imagine that the little port city would have been decisive for his destiny. Precociously capable of making portraits and caricatures, he trained under the guidance of Eugène Boudin, when he was an adolescent, to paint en plein air, through which he could explore all the possibilities offered by the representation of light effect and shadows on color. Precisely the landscapes of Normandy, imbued with a vibrant light, lightened up his palette and led him to the decision not to objectively portray the chosen subject – whether natural or not – but to depict its “impression”, the perception of it. A revolution. Together with the sun of a new day, captured in the harbor of Le Havre in Impression, soleil levant from 1872, arose a new artistic movement, Impressionism, of which Monet is rightly considered the “prince”.
Claude Monet, Impression, Sunrise (Impression, soleil levant), 1872, Musée Marmottan Monet in Paris.
Giverny: the “impression” of a paradise
In 1883, Monet fell in love with Giverny, a small commune in Normandy, where 7 years later, thanks to the wealth he had achieved with his success, he bought the house with the pink and green façade, which today is the Claude Monet Foundation. With the stubborn patience possessed only by someone who loves the land, in just a few years he designed and created a paradise – a term with Greek origins precisely meaning “garden” – which was colorful like a palette, described in 1901 by the art critic Arséne Alexandre as: “wherever one turns, at one’s feet or head or at chest height there are pools, chains of flowers, blossoming hedges at once wild and cultivated, changing with the seasons, ever becoming new”. And from the soleil levant in Le Havre, Monet turned to the “land of the Rising Sun”, namely Japan, to perfume his living artwork. To the many species of flowers and trees, which were already present in his garden, he added the typical cherry trees, quince trees and lilies, apart from the famous green footbridge, namely la passerrelle japonaise, which still today runs over the artificial pond fed by the Epte river.
Claude Monet, Water Lilies and Japanese Bridge, 1899, Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton (New Jersey).
Under the big white umbrella
A suggestive black and white photo from 1915 portrays Claude Monet under a big white umbrella, with his stepdaughter Blanche, the daughter of his second wife Alice, while painting his popular Nymphéas. To this subject Monet dedicated a series of hundreds of canvases, disrupted only by his death, occurred in Giverny in 1926. The water garden – just like the Clos Normand garden, the garden with thousands of colorful flowers – became his source of inspiration for more than 25 years, and he portrayed it almost obsessively, in different moments of the day and of the year with vibrant and vigorous brushstrokes eager to fix their ephemeral essence.
The tribute by the Vittoriano
A fascinating exhibition, which will be open until February 11th 2018 in Rome, at the Complesso del Vittoriano, celebrates the father of Impressionism by showcasing 60 of his canvases. All these canvases were loaned by the Musée Marmottan Monet in Paris, which received them as a donation by Michel, the son of the great painter. A tribute to the gifted artist and to the expert gardener, who loved his flowers so much that he asked about their health whenever he was away from Giverny and, who also left a written note that none of his flowers was to be picked from the soil to honor his grave on the day of his funeral.