Monet’s gardens at Giverny look like his paintings, with splashes of red and purple, dabs of blue, and whole patches of sunflower yellow everywhere you look. Some flowers tower over you, while others stretch out right into your face.
To get to the lily pond, we crossed under the road and followed a wooded stream that helped form the pond. The stream didn’t have enough water for Monet’s plans, so he built ditches to divert more water from a nearby river. His neighbors worried that there’d be no water for their cows or that Monet’s imported water lilies might even poison them, so Monet had to get approval from the town council to complete his lily pond.
Weeping willows overhand the pond, and water lilies crowd each other for room to grow. Between rafts of water lilies, reflections of the willows and other trees and flowers catch the sunlight. The Japanese bridge is really there in among the willow branches!
Walking along the stream to the pond, we passed a field where cows grazed, a field similar to where Monet painted his haystack series in the fall and winter of 1890. Some of the haystacks painted in the winter were Monet’s favorite. In the spring Monet exhibited 15 of the haystack paintings with great success.
He painted in the same field, so the composition in each of the haystack paintings is similar—one or two conical haystacks seen against the strong horizontals of trees and houses in the middle distance, with another horizontal line of hills in the far distance to form the horizon line with the sky above.
The far hills, the roof tops, and the haystack shadows often contain the same colors and so tie all the parts together. In some of the paintings, the top of the haystack is silhouetted against the sky, and in some (as in this view) the slanted roofs of the houses in the middle distance clearly echo the slant of the haystacks.
In this painting I photographed at the Musee d’Orsay the summer sun warms the stacks and highlights their texture made with thick unblended brush strokes. As in his garden, Monet doesn’t want to tame his brushstrokes to make a formal picture of a haystack. His purpose is to show how light changes what the haystacks look like in all kinds of weather and light.
- Go online to study the shadows of some of these haystack paintings. Notice how their shapes and colors change with the weather and time of day. In one winter scene the orange sky contrasts vibrantly with the complementary blue of the cold shadowy snow on top of the stacks, on the roofs of the houses, and on the line of far hills. In some paintings the stacks are silhouetted against a golden sunset with just a few touches of bright outlining from the low setting sun.
- Cut out a small rectangular “window” from white paper and use it to concentrate on different areas of an Impressionist painting. Look at all the colors in a “green” field or a Renoir face. Feeling brave? Try painting what you see through the little window!
- Two great picture books about Monet’s garden: Linnea in Monet’s Garden by Christina Bjork, is a classic and mentions visiting the Marmottan. The Magical Garden of Claude Monet by Laurence Anholt has a foldout view of the gardens.
Sunflowers and blue Delft are favorites of Molly, too.Next Kathythepicturelady post is about Rouen and its cathedral that has survived over 700 years of wars and weather disasters. Be sure and sign up to receive these posts!
All photos in this post were taken by the author.