Beyond painting and gardening, I am good for nothing.
Monet to Duret
I am in raptures; Giverny is a splendid place for me.
Monet to Alice
How I think about Giverny with this beautiful weather and I am envious of you being there, you cannot have an idea: but I am a prisoner, and I must keep going, although in reality I am almost exhausted, it’s killing me and I work feverishly.
Monet to Clemenceau
I am still waiting for your promised visit. This is the time, you will see a splendid garden, but you have to hurry (…) Later everything will have lost its blossom. Come to an agreement with Geffroy and write to me. I count on you. Moreover, I have a lot of new paintings. With my very best wishes. Shake Geffroy and come.
Monet to Georges Bernheim and René Gimpel
Ah gentlemen, I don’t receive people when I work, no I don’t. When I work, if I am interrupted, I lose all inspiration, I am lost. You understand easily, I am chasing a band of colour.
Monet to Alice
The weather has turned much cooler, and you must recommend to Eugène to cover the tigridias and other things that he knows; particularly with the moon, he was afraid of frost. Advise him too, in case of heavy showers and hail (there were some here yesterday), to pull down the greenhouse covers yesterday.
Monet to Caillebotte
My dear friend, don’t forget to come Monday as agreed, all my irises will be in bloom, later some will be over. This is the name of the Japanese plant which I obtained from Belgium: Crythrochaete. Be sure to talk to Monsieur Godefroy about it and to give me some information about its cultivation.
Monet to Bernheim-Jeune
I take this opportunity to give you the address of the rose grower (…) and also the name of the rose bushes that you admired (…): the one climbing in front of the house; Crimson Rambler, and the one on stem: Virago.
We all took to gardening; I dug, planted, weeded myself; in the evening, the children watered. As the situation got better, I did more and more.
Monet to Alice
And the garden? Are there still flowers? I really hope there will still be chrysanthemums when I come back. If there is a risk of frost, make nice bouquets.
While you philosophically seek out the world itself, I exercise simply my effort on a maximum of appearances, in straight correlation with unknown realities.
I want to paint the air around the bridge, the house, the boat. The beauty of the air where they are, and it is nothing other than impossible.
It took me some time to understand my water lilies… I cultivated them with no thought of painting them… One does not fully appreciate a landscape in one day… And then, suddenly, I had a revelation of the magic of my pond. I took my palette. From this moment, I have had almost no other model.
Monet to Gaston Bernheim-Jeune
What I am becoming, you can well imagine: I am working and not without difficulty, because my sight diminishes each day and, also, I look after my garden a lot: this brings me pleasure, and, with the beautiful days we have had, I am over-enjoyed and admire Nature: with this, we never have time to be bored.
The subject is something secondary, what I want to reproduce, is what lies between the subject and myself.
It is a profession that I learnt during my youth… when I was unhappy… It is maybe to flowers that I owe becoming a painter.
Monet, a letter to Maurice Joyant, Giverny the 8th February 1896
Thank you for thinking of me for the Hokusai flowers. You don’t talk to me about poppies that is what is important, because I already have the irises, the chrysanthemums, the peonies and the volubilis.
Monet, a letter to Shinaro Yamashuita, Giverny, the 19th February 1920
I was flattered by your two letters, with the deepest admiration for Japanese art and a real appreciation for the Japanese. It gave me the greatest pleasure to receive your beautiful engravings.
It is in Giverny that you should see Monet in order to know him, his character, his taste for life, his intimate nature. This house and this garden, it is also a masterpiece, and Monet has put all his life into creating and perfecting it.
This house is modest and yet sumptuous by the interior arrangement and the garden, or rather the gardens which surround it. The person who conceived and arranged this wonderful familiar little world is not only a great artist in his creation of his paintings, but also in the surroundings he created for his own pleasure.
The studio-sitting room was full of life and youth in 1886 when I went there for the first time, young girls, young men, adolescents, the children and the stepchildren of Madame Monet (…). The meal finished, we returned to the studio to have a coffee, crossing the blue sitting-room which contains Monet’s library. It is here that Madame Monet, surrounded by her children and Monet’s children, appeared in all her peaceful splendour, her eyes sparkling under a halo of powdered hair.
Gérald Van der Kemp
It is essential to make the pilgrimage to Giverny, in this flowery sanctuary, in order to better understand the Master, to better seize the origin of his inspiration and to imagine him still alive with us.
When I say that Claude Monet was born in Paris, rue Laffite, that is to say in the art dealers’ district – an eventual sign of a predestination -, it would not make much difference. But, if I add he spent his youth in Le Havre, and there, fell in love with the ever-changing light which the tumultuous ocean on the cost receives from the wide open skies, maybe, it would explain this familiarity of the eye with the luminous gymnastics of a distraught atmosphere which throw all shades of all tones to the wastage of waves and winds.
Of medium height, robustly well-built, with smiling determined eyes and a firm, loud voice, it could be enough to describe “a healthy mind in a healthy body”, “a man of will power?”.
Monet’s garden counts among his works, creating the charm of an adaption of nature to the painter’s artwork and light. An extension of his studio outdoors, with colour palettes profusely widespread on all sides for gymnastics of the eye, through appetite for vibration for which a feverish retina awaits never appeased joys. It is not necessary to know how he did his garden. It is certain he did such as his eye ordered him successively, as invited day by day, to satisfy his appetite of colours.
Sometimes I went to sit down on the bench where Monet has seen so many things in the reflections of his water garden. My inexperienced eye needed perseverance to follow from a far the Master’s brush to the extremity of its revelation.
With everybody, I have already noticed from the distance where Monet position himself to paint, the spectator perceives on the canvas only a storm of crazily mixed colours. Some steps back and here on the same panel nature recomposes itself and directs by miracle, through the inextricable mess of multicoloured spots which disconcerted us at first sight. How could Monet, who did not move, catch from the same point of view, the decomposition and the recomposition of tones which allowed him to get the desired effect?
In his bathroom were on the wall the Nigger of Scipion, with blue trousers by Cézanne; Monet, at eighteen, by Déodat de Séverac and in a corner, a small painting representing Monet with African Legionnaire uniform, an aquarelle by Boudin, La Pluie by Caillebotte as some others canvases and small pastel landscapes by Monet. In his bedroom, all the walls were covered with paintings. I counted eleven Cézanne, four Manet! By Renoir: two portraits of Claude Monet and Madame Monet, Madame Monet reading Le Figaro, an Algerian, the Casbah, and two nudes studies, one Degas, some Jongkind, one Corot, portraits by Sargent of Monet, one painting in his boat-studio and the other wearing a beret basque with the painting of Monaco’s Coast behind. And I forget some (having only taken notes while Monet didn’t see!). However, I noticed there were no Gaugin, no Van Gogh.
The room is sunny, the walls lined lemon yellow are only decorated with Japanese engravings which Monet tells us he bought in the past in packets for few francs in Holland. He shows us our places. He pours drinks, notices how we serve ourselves “But you don’t eat”. Under his gaze Monet waits for our compliments which we give generously.
As a lunch, Claude Monet’s is wonderful. First, some hors-d’oeuvres with the best Norman butter, succulent sweetbreads with spinach, two chickens and for five people: the first is roasted and nobody would touch it, the second is extraordinary, with black olives, then a tart, a pure delight and fruit as beautiful as flowers. Monet has always adored meals.
If I could see one day Claude Monet’s garden, I really feel I would see a garden in more tones and colour than flowers, a garden which could be less an old flower garden than a colourist garden, so to speak. Flowers displayed together but not as nature because they were sown so that only flowering at the same time as matching shades, harmonized to the infinite in all ranges of blue or pink. This powerfully manifested painter’s intention in one sense dematerialized from anything but colour.
From a meadow naked, without a tree, but watered by a babbling and winding arm of the river Epte, he created a true fairy garden, digging a large pond in the middle, planting at the edge of the pond exotic trees and willows whose branches felt in long tears along the bank, drawing all around the valley whose the arches of greenery, intertwining, gave the illusion of a big park, sowing galore, on the pond, thousands and thousands of water lilies whose rare and chosen species were coloured all the tints of the prism, from purple, red and orange until pink, lilac and mauve, planting finally on the Epte at its output of the pond, one of his little rustic, humped bridge, as we see in the gouaches of the eighteenth century and on toiles de Jouy.
The pond fed by the Epte is surrounded by Babylone willows with golden branches. The background and banks are garnished with a mass of heather earth plants, ferns, kalmias, rhododendrons, azaleas, holly. The banks are shaded on one side by roses with high vegetation and the pond itself is planted with all known varieties of water lilies (…). An important planting of bamboos forms a dense wood. On the bank again, butterbur with huge leaves, on the lawns the thalictrums with indebted leaves, some ferns with light and cottony, pink or white flowers, wisterias … We also find tamarisk and everywhere is dotted with roses on tall stem roses and shrub roses.
The general aspect of the garden, mainly the little green bridge, led it to be given the name of “Japanese Garden”. Mr Hayashi, the curator from Japan for the 1900’s exhibition, was, also, struck by the resemblance, which Monet declares to have not looked for. His love for Japan is however deep.
Monet to Thiébault-Sisson
I have painted a lot of these water lilies, modifying each time my point of view, renewing the subject following seasons of the year, and therefore, following different luminous effects engendered by these changes. The effect besides varies incessantly. The essential of the subject is the mirror of the water whose aspect, at any one time, changes itself thanks to the expanses of sky which is reflect in it, and spreading life and movement. The passing cloud, the freshening breeze, the threatening and falling rain, the sudden gust of wind, the light failing and shining again, so many reasons, elusive to the profane eye, which transform the tint and disfigure the body of water.
Monsieur Monet whose vision neither winter nor summer is troubled, lives, painting, in Giverny situated near Vernon, in Eure.
It’s in summer, you had to see him, in this wonderful garden which was his luxury and his glory, and for which he did follies as a king for a mistress …