A house in Giverny

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Monet’s house at Giverny is only 75kms away from Paris. Take the train at Saint-Lazare station, direction Rouen-Le Havre. Pass Mantes-la-jolie, and stop at Vernon. Skip the part where the French railroad has deliberately ignored the fact that Giverny is an hour’s walk from Vernon. (My compatriots tend to be very fact-avoiding; see the current election). You can queue for the bus to Giverny. Or take a cab. Which I did. The Vernon stop is clearly meant to support local transportation business. (Above: nympheas in Monet’s Giverny garden)

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As soon as we crossed the Seine, I went into some sort of shock. The houses, the trees (I’m very tree-sensitive: the shape, foliage, colour, of trees, anywhere, is unmistakable. When I arrive at Roissy airport, I know I’m home because of the shape of the trees). I looked around. Some of the car plates ended up in 29. Department of Eure! I frantically hit my local, French, Android dumbphone screen for a map application. Takes me twice as  much time on Android as on I-Phone. Android was designed by Martians. To be honest, I understand Android users have the same problem/complaint about I-phones.

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A typical house in Giverny.

I got the map running. Zoomed out, while the cab was driving along the oh-so-familiar-yet-never-seen houses and landscape. Giverny is about 30 kms away from the little village in Normandy where we had a house for many years. North-west of Giverny. 30 klicks. And we’d never come here. Giverny wasn’t popular then.

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Our house in Normandy. 30 kms away. Late 60’s.

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The Japanese bridge at Giverny. Orsay. I’d gone to Orsay the day before. A wise timing. Seeing that painting reminded me of an exhibition a few years ago at Marmottan. If you haven’t gone to the Musée Marmottan, make it a must on your next Paris visit. A lovely little museum in the west side of Paris. Great collections of painters such as Berthe Morisot, Renoir, et al. The expo consisted of a dozen paintings of the bridge by Monet over a period of many years as he gradually lost his eye-sight. And from the first to the last painting, one could see how he slowly became blind. Which must be a curse for a painter. And yet, he kept painting.

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A 1902 photograph of the “pont japonais” at Monet’s house. (An apology about the reflections. Shooting conditions were not optimal)

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The bridge today. Bottom right. There were a few Japanese visitors on the bridge. 🙂

The garden and pond are fabulous. Though it seemed that all the tourists who had deserted Paris last year after the many killings had suddenly flocked to Giverny. And as I walked the grounds, I had this eerie sensation of going back in time to my old house.

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A partial view of our old house. c. 1975. Compare the brown wood and white plaster work below the roof to the house in the village above.

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Giverny. 2016.

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In the garden, going up to Monet’s house. One can see the door in the background.

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Our house. c. 1962. L. to r.: yours truly and little sis, raking the leaves.

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Monet’s house. Look closely at the façade. Only then did I understand my friend Jenny’s comment on Bulldog Travels about “pink”. Check her site here:

https://bulldogtravels.com/

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Pink is the new black? I then realized how Monet’s house, no matter its – historical – grandeur was just a plain, typical 19 century Normandy house. With strange façade colouring. 🙂 A house as there are still hundreds and hundreds, all around the region. A house with personality. And a history. Which makes it different from all the others.

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Ours. Mid-sixties. Looking up close, it’s probably me in the centre, on the deck chair, reading a comics. Don’t get me wrong: ours was not Monet’s house. Those are just the memories that Giverny triggered.

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Japanese woodblock. Monet’s house is full of those. Late 18, early 19 century. When Commodore Perry “opened” up Japan by force in mid 19 century, Japanese woodblock prints started to appear on the European markets. They were a revelation for French and European painters: the precision of the drawing, the choice of colours opened new avenues, particularly for impressionist and post-impressionist painters. And much to my delight Monet’s house is full of them. Originals, I believe.

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Monet’s workshop, at the turn of the century. The previous one, not this one. I would suspect the large window to be south-exposed. The workshop is at the left end of the house, as seen from the garden. One can recognize a nymphea painting to the right of the window.

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The workshop today. Nicely preserved. Though I’m sorry to say that all paintings, eagerly photographed by zealous tourists (including myself) are copies. The originals are… at Orsay, Marmottan, The Met?

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Thank you for “boating” with Equinoxio Cruise Line to Giverny. Happy Labour Day. For all of us – the entire planet but one – who celebrate it on May 1st.

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57 thoughts on “A house in Giverny

  1. Thank you for posting about one of my favorite places in France. And thank you for shouting out my blog! His house is indeed PINK. Gosh I just love the overflowing flowers directly in front of his door. You did a wonderful job capturing it.

    I love how much your old house looks like it belongs in Giverny. I don’t know if that is just a fluke or if it is because it was so close to Giverny as the crow flies. But, regardless I love it because I loved that little town. Even in the rain and the wind while I was there.

    It is easy to see why it was Monet’s muse. Once he finished it there was really no reason to go anywhere else.

    I also very much loved his workshop. The lighting was nice and it was comfortable and I loved how haphazard all of the paintings on the walls were. I am glad they were fakes. I would be mortified if something were to happen to one of them by a visitor or by the visitor’s camera flashes.

    While I was in Paris I saw his massive waterlillies on display. They were an amazing gift of peace to a country reeling from the war. We need more things like that right now.

    Paris Opera forthcoming. WordPress has been fighting me lately and I haven’t been able to save changes to my draft. I am trying to be patient while it works itself out…

    • Merci. Gracias. 🙂 Only one who has traveled a lot can understand: tree shapes, branches, foliage, colours are very different from the North to the South, East and West. 🙂 And I liked to climb trees a lot as a child. A mango tree is very different to climb than a “tilleul”. (English?) and finally, the play of the sun and wind in leaves is totally different from one tree to the other. Try it. Next tree you come across. Observe. 5 minutes… 😉

      • I hadn’t either. I guess the words just came to me, carried by the wind.
        Linden? As in “Unter den linden” in Berlin? (The only street in Berlin where I felt I could… breathe and forget about the drastic past of that city. Unter den linden is a lovely street)
        I didn’t know American used the german word.
        Bonne semaine.

      • Er… Ok. Next post is out: Giverny part 2. I have done a Berlin post in December, after the “attentat”. ‘have also included the odd photo of Berlin in my Pot-pourri series. Like I said, Berlin is a difficult topic for me. I will try. 🙂 A bientôt, Soleil.

  2. 😍😍😍 I want to be there now. I was raised on Monet. I originally hail from Chicago and the Art Institute is ‘most famous for its collections of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist paintings, widely regarded as one of the finest collections outside of France. Highlights include more than 30 paintings by Claude Monet, including six of his Haystacks and a number of Water Lilies’ (Wikipedia). And I love your childhood homes. #vivelafrance

    • Astublift. 🙂 The house was magic. When not enslaved in the renovation, we would spend all day in the woods or fields nearby. Sometimes take our bikes a sandwich, water and paddle away all day. Unthinkable now. And Monet’s house is just that: a house in Normandy, where he “organized” his garden, Japanese bridge, painted, and surely took a walk in the village or by the Seine. Glad you liked it.

  3. Thank you so much for this lovely tour, Brian. I hope to visit Giverny one day soon. Love the photos of your homes, too. What a tranquil paradise to grow up in.

    • It was. With reservations. Things generally got ugly after we left: Cambodia, Cyprus, Guinea, Africa in general. 🙂
      You would like Giverny. It has a very special Normand atmosphere. Light. Trees. Very nice.

  4. Oh, I’m definitely a little green! I would be hard pressed to think of an artist I like more. All his work; from his early beginnings to those later when his eye sight was failing. What a fantastic artist.
    Loved this, Brian… 🙂

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