The place where artist Claude Monet lived for forty-three years

A warm spring day in Paris. After a short hour-long train ride towards Giverny, the French town most known as the place where artist Claude Monet lived for forty-three years, from 1883 to 1926. After seeing and experiencing Claude Monet’s work at the Musee l’Orangerie a few years back, the Monet’s Garden in Giverny was added to the top of things to do. At the Musee l’Orangerie, Monet envisioned a space to hold the artwork to give the illusion of an endless viewing space. Until Monet’s death in 1926, he devoted himself and his artworks to the Nymphéas series, also known as the Water Lilies series, alongside his passion for gardening - flower garden and water garden that formed the basis for Nymphéas series of artworks.

Below is a series of black and white photographs captured on half frame films on the warm spring day.


All photos shot by Von Chua

The town of Giverny is a pedestrian only space which was a pleasant change from the bustling train station from Paris. Walking along the main street in Giverny, it seems primarily visited by tourists. Come evening when the museums are closed, the street becomes extremely quiet and toned down with just a few people hanging out.


The street of Rue Claude Monet anchoring the town. Off this street is the Maison de Claude Monet’s museum entrance. Upon arrival at the museum’s entrance, signs to the garden was clearly marked as there is quite a sequence before you reach it by going through a staircase, through a tunnelled walkway, before going up a staircase to then arrive at the garden.


Glimpses of Claude Monet’s Japanese influence are first present at the perimeter of the garden. A small bamboo groove and wooden bridges reminiscent of foot bridges in locations with long traditions in Japan such as in Kyoto, a nod to Monet’s admiration of nature’s central role in Japanese culture.


A constant breeze blowing the water lily pond, further enhanced through the movement of the weeping willow trees. The weeping willows is said to be among Monet’s favourite trees for many reasons, and one of them is the translucent quality of their leaves. Recalling from memory of the paintings at the Musee L’Orangerie, one can sense a movement and lightness of where the artist was, however, experiencing this in real life gave another layer of appreciation of Claude Monet’s depiction. Monet’s interpretation was poetic, capturing an essence of the feeling of being in nature one receives when surrounded by the ponds and the garden.


Behind this view are two garden benches. On the day of this visit, there was a group of art students seated and focused on drawing, painting and even one student creating digital art on his laptop. Did the artist also sit on these benches with his oil paints and canvas?


Overcoming the local residents’ resistance to introducing foreign plants into the Giverny area, Monet worked on his garden by adding on flowers, trees, bushes and subsequently water lilies in the pond. In 1895, he also added the Japanese-style wooden bridge, before he began painting the pond and its water lilies. From one of the artist’s quotes, “It took me a long time to understand my water lilies… I grew them without thinking of painting them… And then, all of a sudden, I had the revelation of the enchantment of my pond. I took up my palette.” Monet worked on the garden for years before began painting them, eventually produced approximately 250 oil paintings of this garden.


The bridges were not a one-offs; there were a few bridges dotted around the garden.


Approaching Monet’s House where he spent over forty years, the house was completely isolated from the garden which was unexpected. The views at the house were focused on the large front yard, free of a water body like the pond on the other side of the property.


A gardener is busy attending to the garden. Throughout the visit, several gardeners were working at trimming the garden from low levels along the fences to shaping the trees at high level such as these bent metal arches. There was evidence that Monet worked with a team of gardeners to realise his vision for the garden. The external gardens can be divided into three areas - the flower gardens surrounding the house as above, the water garden that is isolated, as well as a 2.5 acre vegetable garden.

As I chatted with my 13th-century converted farmstead accommodation’s owner, who is a true Cabana magazine lover with all issues laid out on the communal table, about what she thinks about Monet’s Garden here in Giverny, her short response as a local resident sums it all up - what is displayed at the Musee L’Orangerie is incomparable. Monet’s vision of presenting his paintings to the viewers by envisioning and creating hyper specific dedicated rooms to display his artworks in its best format, in this case, in a format to give the illusion of an endless viewing space is what is uniquely evocative. The strength of a thoughtful space designed for one and only one use, such as the oval rooms at the Musee L’Orangerie housing eight paintings with a combined length of approximately 100 metres, is a truly beautiful space that arguably rivals the real water lily pond in the little town of Giverny. Having said that, a short visit to Fondation Claude Monet, Monet’s House and Garden in Giverny does bring a deeper appreciation of the artist’s decades long work.

Link to Fondation Claude Monet, Monet’s House and Garden in Giverny: