1981, Sue Gregory (Macdonald), Student Exchange, Giverny, France

Monet’s garden at Giverny

By Sue Gregory

I began my visit to France in Paris in order to visit the art galleries to look at Monet’s paintings and to initially investigate his history – the relationships between the impressionist movement and garden design, The most rewarding gallery was the Musee Marmotan which I found very moving, The paintings exhibited included many of my favourites and were displayed to their very best. Paris was a very good starting off point for such an adventure. I arrived in Giverny worn out but eager to explore many ideas that I had and I felt certain that I would be able to do that at Giverny.

The garden of Claude Monet was opened to the public in 1980 after four to five years of restoration work – it was still not a mature garden. laid out in two sections. The Clos Normand is in the style of a French wild garden — a grid system over-flowing with plants- and the Basin or water garden, which includes the water lilies and Japanese bridge The House and Studio (now a shop) have been renovated with great taste. However the garden is not in my opinion yet the garden of Claude Monet. Although the basic layout was correct, Monet’s use of plants in subtle harmonies had been by-passed in order to provide the public with a continuous display of a multiple of colours which had been very poorly planned. I found a number of faults with the plantings which are included in my report.

The Musee and garden are run and financed by the Academy de Beaux Arts and its director is Monsieur Van der Kemp (who was the director of Versailes). It is also supported by a private organisation, the Friends of Claude Monet Foundation which is constituted of a number of donors (mainly French and American).

Six gardeners, including the Head Gardener (Monsieur Vahe), one skilled gardener and four labourers work there. Monsieur Van der Kemp advises on aspects of the garden but is only there at weekends and a lot of his time is taken up with publicity and entertaining donors.

The village is very much involved with the garden and is divided down the middle between those who are for the garden and those who are against.

I was warmly taken into the community, even with my scratchy French which incidentally couldn’t help but improve a little. I stayed locally in the village and managed to visit quite a number of places in the area of interest. I worked from 8/9 in the morning to 5.30 doing a variety of jobs from staking espalier pears to planting and labelling the plants. 1worked five days a week but managed to get at least half a day spare each week to do my own research of the garden.

Thus I learnt a great deal about the garden, Monet, Giverny and France and ail this is of great value to me and I believe I will make use of this in the future.


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