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Impressions of Claude Monet’s Giverny

So what if you do not get to see an original Claude Monet in his maison at a small French village called Giverny. It is
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So what if you do not get to see an original Claude Monet in his maison at a small French village called Giverny. It is a pilgrimage spot nonetheless, to be where the master of Impressionism was at work for a greater period of his life, and to relive those images of lilies and the countryside.   

Monet’s garden, with the lily pond, is a riot of colours in spring and summer, until autumn, attracting thousands of tourists from all over the world. They flock to it to pay their homage and to acquaint themselves with a French commune that is in the north-west region of France known as Normandy.

My visit was marked with adventure of a different kind. The journey from Paris to Giverny is a little over an hour by car. For us, two women visiting from India, the trip was almost a disaster to begin with.  In a basement garage to pick up the car to be driven by another woman, our French friend and guide, the online instructions provided some scary moments. The automated garage shutters came down on us like we were in Ali Baba’s cave. After some anxious moments, during which we tried to figure how to unlock the car, the key of which lay inside, we finally managed to pull out into the sunshine and make our way.

The journey from Paris to Giverny is a little over an hour by car
The journey from Paris to Giverny is a little over an hour by car

After negotiating the straight highway, the car turned into the exit that led us to the village, which lies on the bank of the River Seine in Vernon. It would have been just another sleepy little village were it not for the father of Impressionism.  Monet arrived in this town in 1883 and made his home here until his death in 1926. As we drove through the village, the quaint houses typical of the French countryside whizzed past us.

Monet's kitchen
Monet’s kitchen

Sure enough, clusters of visitors, lesser in number because it was already September, milled around as if united by a single-minded purpose. After buying our tickets, of 11 Euros a piece, we found ourselves on the steps of his beautiful country home, refurbished and museum-like with Monet’s  furniture, kitchen ware, Japanese prints and of course, copy of his works well-preserved.   

The wooden bridge
The wooden bridge

There are various museums in France, especially in Paris, showcasing Monet originals but Giverny provides you with that extra thrill of seeing where the master was actually at work.

His own little private space includes the garden he lovingly built over the years and the little stream he engineered into it. It laid the foundation for a Japanese garden, with a little wooden bridge over that stream. Scenes from the adjacent village found themselves into his paintings of pastoral life; the haystacks, the common villagers, the meadows and countless impressions of his garden and the pink lilies in the pond.  

Also Read: In the Enchanting Forest Temple: Ta Prohm

The house did fall into neglect after his death, but since refurbished, to show in its entirety; the kitchen with copper pots and pans hung on hooks over the gas stove, the China blue tiles, the chintz curtains, bed, sofas which speak of the painter’s innate artistry. The garden was aflame with other flowers too. Roses, clematis, poppies, and of course, the walkway, rimmed with nasturtium, Iris, tulip and forget-me-not, pansies, wisteria and azalea bushes.  

The house did fall into neglect after his death, but since refurbished, to show in its entirety; the kitchen with copper pots and pans hung on hooks over the gas stove, the China blue tiles, the chintz curtains, bed, sofas which speak of the painter’s innate artistry
The house did fall into neglect after his death, but since refurbished, to show in its entirety; the kitchen with copper pots and pans hung on hooks over the gas stove, the China blue tiles, the chintz curtains, bed, sofas which speak of the painter’s innate artistry

Monet’s paintings are not only about the flowers and sky, but their reflections on the water, creating an inverted world transfigured by the translucent element present therein.  

Giverny
Giverny

We came down to earth with a lunch of Quiche Lorraine and a healthy salad, rounding it off with ice-lolly from an ice cream cart vendor in trying to beat the unusual September heat. The trip was extremely rewarding because Monet’s paintings are not just soothing to the eye but the master’s natural outdoor studio also balms the souls in equal measure.

All Images: Snigdha Goswami & Cecile Kocicka 

A masters’ in Comparative Literature from Jadavpur University, Manjira Majumdar has dabbled in journalism, teaching and gender activism. She shares her love for cinema, books, art and four-legged creatures with her family consisting of a husband and two daughters.

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