Monet is probably best known for his paintings of waterlillies and this waterlilly bridge. I have written before about other series painted by Monet; his haystacks, the waterloo bridge, the seine for example but none was as big as his series of waterlillies. He has painted approxiamatily 250 paintings of waterlillies during the last 30 years of his life. Many of the works were painted while he suffered from cataracts.
One of the things that made Monet so successful is that he really paved the way for other impressionists to also try and paint landscapes the way they saw them in just that moment rather than to paint an ideal lanscape according to the rules of the academy.
Monet purchased his house in 1883 and build the garden, the pond and the bridge in Giverny later. It is said that he realised he wanted to move to Giverny when he saw it outside a train window. He first rented the house and the land but was able to buy everything in 1890 thanks to his success of his haystacks series. He than set out to design the garden, pond and japanese bridge. He began to construct a water-lily garden. Soon weeping willows, iris, and bamboo grew around a free-form pool, clusters of lily pads and blossoms floated on the quiet water, and a Japanese bridge closed the composition at one end. Surprisingly enough he didn’t design the pond with painting in mind. He has said:
It took me time to understand my waterlilies. I had planted them for the pleasure of it; I grew them without ever thinking of painting them. ”
– Claude Monet
It turns out Monet just really loved gardening. He has said that he was only good at two things in life: gardening and painting. He also said that all the money he earned went into the gardens.He considered his garden to be his biggest masterpiece.
His house is nowadays a museum and it is possible to visit the museum and garden here: http://giverny.org/gardens/fcm/visitgb.htm
Already in 1887 American impressionist artists we’re drawn to Giverny because of the beautiful surroundings and Monet’s presence, They are now known as the Giverny Colony. One of them was Theodore Earl Butler which married Monet’s stepdaughter Suzanne Hoschedé who posed in some of Monets paintings as the woman with a parasol. She was his favorite model.
They married in 1892 the same year Monet married his wife and had two children together. After only 7 years of marriage Suzanne died in 1899 and Theodore Earl Butler married her younger sister and raised their two children with her instead. Theodore Earl Butler was ofcourse influenced by Monet’s style of painting but even by Gauguin and later fauvism.
Another notable painter that came often back to Giverny was American painter Frederick Carl Frieseke who’d spent most of his life in France. Frederick Carl Frieseke did not become close friends with Monet even though they were practically neighbours, nor was he influenced artistically by Monet, The only impressionist he credited to have influenced him was Piere-Auguste Renoir, because they both liked to paint women bathing in sunlight. He particularly liked the freedom he had in France:
“I am more free and there are not the Puritanical restrictions which prevail in America – here I can paint the nude out of doors.”
He wrote that he liked to chock the audience back in the USA in 1902 with his nude paintings:
“I get much pleasure in shocking the good Church people with the nudes”
Friseke won many prices and awards during his lifetime including the very prestigious medal of the French Legion of Honour.
In Giverny one can visit the Museum of Impressionism Giverny dedicated to the history of impressionism and its continuation in the Giverny art colony here: http://giverny.org/museums/impressionism/
I hope you all enjoyed reading about Monet’s waterlillies as much as I liked to read more about Giverny :).
sunny greetings, Hilde