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Immerse yourself in Claude Monet’s Giverny, France

By Bob Taylor

Since 1980, travelers, artists and flower lovers alike have immersed themselves in the vibrant surroundings of Claude Monet’s home and gardens at Giverny, France.

Giverny is infectious. It reaches deep into your soul. Here, 50 miles northwest of Paris, first impressions are lasting impressions, and there are many.

Technological advances in photography in the mid-1800s prompted artists to experiment with light and color by taking their palette outdoors. Artists were now free to express “perceptions of nature” rather than the precise representations that limited them in the past.

Monet met Eugene Boudin in Honfleur, France, in 1856 when Boudin was using an evolving technique by Johan Barthold Jongkind known as “en plein air” – meaning outdoor painting.

Normandy is a rural region where weather is restless, with constantly moving clouds and rapidly changing patterns of light and color. It was the ideal location for the creation of Impressionism.

In 1874, when Monet was 32, his painting “Impression, Sunrise” was exhibited in Paris. Art critic Louis Leroy disparagingly labeled it “Impressionism.” Impressionism, however, lives on as one of the major artistic movements in history.

Following the death of his beloved wife, Camille, Monet caught a glimpse of Giverny from the window of a train in 1883. He rented a house there, and later purchased the home in which he would reside for the remainder of his life.

For the next several years, the artist converted his long, two-story building into a house and studio overlooking his magnificent gardens. Huge picture windows opened out to the gardens so Monet was sheltered from the elements and able to work in any weather.

Because Monet was also a world-class horticulturist, the gardens were his own design.

Initially his lily pond just across the road was merely a quiet refuge until he become infatuated with it. Once “discovered,” Monet rarely painted anything else.

By 1980, the Foundation Claude Monet opened the house and gardens to the public, and in keeping with Monet’s philosophy, the gardens are regularly changed during the months it is open.

Details: www.giverny.org

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