Thursday, September 22, 2016

Garden Dreams

Is it climate, craftsmanship, or perseverance that makes gardens so robust in northern France? At our first regional stopover Kay and I encountered this horticultural panache in Chartres.

Public planters, Chartres
Then we boarded the train to fulfill her lifetime longing to visit Claude Monet's garden at Giverny. We stayed overnight in Vernon, the nearest town served by rail.

Sidewalk café, Vernon
Vernon epitomizes the small-town charm of France. In August outdoor living comes into full bloom.

A planter on the bridge over the Seine, en route to Giverny
Rather than wait for the mid-morning bus we walked the four miles to Giverny. We crossed the Seine and hiked along the Normandy farms.

When we arrived crowds were already lining up to see the house and studio where Monet centered his painterly vision on impressions of his own gardens.

Monet's house
Mass plantings of geraniums by the door proved that vivid combinations of everyday plants can scintillate  appealingly.

At the door
Kay smiled through tears at the realization of a fifty-five year dream that began on a fifth grade art class field trip to New York's Museum of Modern Art with her first glimpse of Monet's water lily murals.

Solanum, dahlias, gladiolus
The Giverny garden today sparkles with floral coordinations and contrasts. The colors tease each other like an Impressionist canvas revitalized in specific flowers.

Sunflowers and morning glories
Portrait of Monet the garden director
The joys and aspirations that the painter sought on canvas became an experimental craft in the garden, to compose flowers and atmospheric light into modulations of sensual wonder. 

Mexican sunflower and cleome
Dahlia and solanum


A tableau in the studio today

Monet dammed a stream to endow a lily pond. It became the culminating subject of his painterly life. His attention seemed to shift from celebration to contemplation.

Water lily
Pond reflections
The pond became a reciprocation of his creative spirit, simultaneously a source of study and a painting in itself where he administered Nature as carefully as a canvas.

The Japanese bridge
The water garden reverberated to Monet's collection of Oriental prints that had expanded his artistic vision beyond European horizons.

Returning to Paris
We left timeless Shangri-la in the timely precision of French trains. We arrived in Paris at the tumult of Gare St. Lazare, the station whose facade Monet had idealized in a series of moody paintings.

The Luxembourg Gardens
Within the stimulation of Paris lies an isle of repose with space for inner city recreation as provided by all livable urban communities. The Jardin du Luxembourg receives and offers the best of French horticulture like an interplay with its painterly heritage.

Claude Monet's legacy remains accessible to his fellow citizens in several distinguished museums. Toward the end of his career he wanted to make a monumental gift to the nation.

In conjunction with former Premier George Clemenceau, Monet conceived of a series of eight water lily panels, Les Nymphéas, each up to forty feet long, to be displayed in the building that had once given winter shelter to the orange trees of the garden of the Tuileries. The French government reconfigured L'Orangerie into a large oval room illuminated diffusely with sunlight.

A small portion of Les Nymphéas at Musée de l'Orangerie
The paintings curve with the walls, enveloping the audience.
The young lady first entranced by these scenes so many years ago, came into the room as a fulfilled pilgrim. Lilies floated over the canvases like whispers over unknowable depths of water. Opalescent reflections from the pond conveyed the painter's reverie to her own.

1 comment:

  1. God bless Kay Ray, smiling through tears, and realizing life dreams. Onward to more dreaming, and more fulfilling.