The dreamy water-lily ponds created by the supreme Impressionist painter, Claude Monet, gave him his greatest artistic inspiration and have made this little Seine-side village celebrated across the world. Also visit Monet’s other gardens, and his house, with many Japanese prints. In addition, the Giverny Musée des Impressionnismes spreads the artistic net wider.
Giverny is a delightful, typical Norman Seine-side village. It lies on the right, or north, bank of Normandy’s mightiest river, close to the town of Vernon. Were it not for the arrival of Impressionist master Claude Monet in 1883, the village might have remained a quiet provincial backwater. The long years Monet spent here would turn it into a place of artistic pilgrimage, even in his lifetime. He settled at Giverny with his companion Alice Hoschedé. They had both been widowed and their respective children came to live with them.
Monet designed several exuberantly colourful gardens, getting his enlarged new family to help him. His most ambitious project was to create a garden with lily ponds, which caused discontent among some local people, as it involved shifting the course of a stream. Monet was not seeking specific inspiration with this new plan, but once the ponds were flourishing, they led to his very finest paintings –Les Nymphéas, a series loved across the planet, and that put little Giverny on the world map. Monet had become a hugely admired artist by this time. A colony of followers came to visit him in Giverny, changing the face of the village. Monet lived here up until his death in 1926.
Following Monet’s disappearance, his property gradually fell into decline. Thanks to generous donations, especially from wealthy American patron Walter Annenberg, the house and gardens were beautifully restored. They have become a magnet for huge numbers of tourists, along with a second, related art museum, also set up thanks to generous American donors. Franco-American artistic links go back a long way at Giverny. American Impressionist Theodore Butler became a good friend of Monet’s here and would, in due course, marry two of his stepdaughters. The picturesque village of Giverny still draws artists as well as an art-loving crowd, as you can see from its galleries, plus it has many welcoming teashops and restaurants.
Worth a visit
- Claude Monet's House and Garden The home of the Master of Impressionism, now restored, has regained the colours, the furniture, the Japanese prints and the china that Monet loved. Facing the house and studio, the Clos Normand walled garden displays a breath-taking palette of flowers and colours. The water garden, with its Japanese bridge, water lilies, wisteria and azaleas instantly bring to mind the brilliant interpretations of them Monet painted time and again. However, French President Georges Clemenceau, a friend of Monet, summed up the importance of the estate when he declared that Monet’s gardens counted among his masterpieces.
- Musée des Impressionnismes Giverny The main aim of this museum is to promote the international nature of the Impressionist Movement, paying particular attention to the Giverny colony and the artists of the Seine Valley. The museum also traces the history of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism and highlights their influence on subsequent movements in the 20th century.
- The Hôtel Baudy When Monet was alive, artists including the likes of Cézanne and Rodin poured into Giverny to get close to the Master of Modern Art. Many stayed at this house, which became a place of artistic legends. The Hôtel Baudy is now a café-restaurant.
Dates for your diary
- 27th March – 19th July 2015 Exhibition: Degas, an Impressionist Painter? - Musée des Impressionnismes, Giverny In collaboration with the Musée d’Orsay, this major exhibition will bring together 60 of Degas’ works including paintings, pastels, drawings and sculptures. Showing work spanning the artists’ career, this exhibition aims to expose Degas not only as an Impressionist painter but above all as an avant-garde artist. This museum is found a stone’s throw from Monet’s house and garden – now the Fondation Claude Monet.
- The International Chamber Music Festival is held in Giverny from the end of August to the beginning of September.
- Vernon Floods of tourists heading for Giverny pass through the pretty historic town of Vernon, set beside the Seine. Vernon boasts a particularly picturesque old mill over the water, with bronze outdoor sculptures nearby, while its fine arts museum, the Musée A.G. Poulain, holds some interesting art works, including a few lesser-known pieces by Monet.
- Eure Valley Tourist Train As well as exploring the Impressionist world of Claude Monet, take a ride on an old-fashioned train to discover the lovely Eure valley.