Monet the Gardener (Our trip to Giverny)

A painter of flowers and the natural world is inspired by the beauty they see around them.  For others, planning and growing the plants in a garden are as much part of the excitement of committing them to canvas with paint.

Claude Monet was one such passionate plantsman.  He was well informed about plant life and kept up to date on horticultural change.  He had begun to garden at Argenteuil and then Vetheuil, modest gardens but which had developed his taste and style. The subjects of his art enabled him to develop one of France’s greatest gardens.

Flowebeds in Monets Garden - Giverny

Flowerbeds in Monet’s Garden – Giverny

Monet happened upon Giverny whilst travelling by train along the Seine valley in 1883 and from the moment they rented the house, he involved his whole family in tending and growing plants with him.  Monet was forty-three and had become the leading figure in French artistic avant-garde.

There was a large garden with an orchard and in front of the house flowerbeds. The two long beds on either side of the central path leading down to the Chemin du Roy gave scope for lots of exuberant planting. Monet had visited many gardens his preference of flowers was in an English taste, the massing of plants like Dutch bulb-fields and Japanese aesthetics were echoed in features he built.


During this time, he was away painting outside of Giverny and his success in selling these paintings enabled him to buy the house in 1890 and from then on, fully develop his ideas for the garden.

Giverny was never meant to be static – luxurious blooms in the flower garden around his pink home continued to constantly change throughout the seasons.  On our visit the bursting profusion of plants were amazing and felt very Mediterranean.

In his lifetime, six full time gardeners, several apprentices and inventive systems for irrigation and heating greenhouses ensured the flower garden and grande allée bloomed whilst fresh fruit and vegetables were produced in profusion away from the main garden. Such was his enthusiasm that already by 1893 he was looking over the garden wall for more land to cultivate.

Across the road was a marsh and small pond, not very accessible, having been cut off by the railway and road, where Monet saw the potential for making a water garden and expanding his landscape. In February 1893 he bought the land and set about designing a lake.

Waterlillies in Monet's Garden - Giverny

Waterlilies in Monet’s Garden – Giverny

What Monet hadn’t planned on was the village being so opposed to him proposing to grow exotic plants, excavating the pond, building embankments for the lake and changing the stream flow.  Whilst he was away in Rouen, continuing his near-obsessive paintings of the cathedral there, opposition grew and he nearly abandoned the whole idea. Writing to his wife he said … “Shit for the natives of Giverny, the engineers. I give the land to whoever wants it”.

The potential for the landscape that was going to have the most important impact on his work for the last decades of his life was so very nearly lost.


He wrote to the Préfét that the proposal was “to do something agreeable and for the pleasure of the eyes, and for the purpose of having motives to paint…” and finally he received his permissions. By 1895 the Japanese bridge had been built by a local carpenter and by 1898 the transformation was complete.  The waterlilies had arrived, floating on the surface reflecting the native willow trees with the arc of the bridge bringing the composition together.

This extension to his garden would now become central to his painting.  Since arriving in Giverny he hadn’t painted the garden but now a new series of work was blooming on the marsh.

View our garden-inspired paintings


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