Giverny and the Vexin Normand
Our thanks to Jacques-Sylvain Klein, who very kindly made available to us texts which he has written for the "Guide du Routard des Impressionnistes en Normandie". To read these texts in full, readers are invited to purchase the "Guide du Routard" guidebook (in French), available from French bookshops.
Giverny and the Vexin Normand
In 1883, Monet settled in Giverny with his partner, Alice Hoschedé, and their eight children. He rented a large house with an orchard and vegetable garden, where he was able to dedicate himself to his two passions – painting and gardening. He was to spend the next 43 years, with the exception of a few trips around France and abroad, in this marvellous spot, taking constant inspiration for the bulk of his work from his delightful garden, which was in flower from early spring to late autumn.
Monet began his series paintings, a method which he copied from Japanese print painters, with his studies of haystacks. He subsequently went on to paint a series of Poplars (which lined the banks of the Epte river), of Rouen Cathedral (finished in his studio), and his series Morning on the Seine, which consolidated his reputation as the most important painter of the century. After this, he dedicated himself almost exclusively to the flowers in his garden, particularly the waterlilies. His pictorial experiments, where shapes were less important than the vibration of the light, led Monet to paint in an almost Abstract style. Kandinsky later acknowledged his debt to the work of the older artist.
When not working on his series paintings, Monet spent time outdoors studying his motif in all seasons and weather and painting views of the region, including the banks of the Epte river, the village of Vétheuil and the church at Vernon.
The artist hosted many guests at his house in Giverny, especially his painter friends such as Pissaro, Caillebotte, Heleu, Sisley, Cézanne (who stayed at the Hôtel Baudy), Rodin, Renoir and Berthe Morisot.
Many foreign artists – British and Americans, and even a Czech – came to Giverny to work alongside the master and listen to his advice. The paintings that they created in the style of Monet helped spread the image and international reputation of Giverny, this small village in the Eure which owes so much to the artist who chose to live here.
When Monet settled in Giverny, the garden in front of his house was no more than a simple vegetable patch, which the artist soon transformed into a stunning French-style garden known as the Clos Normand.It was not until ten years later that he set to work on creating the large lily pond. The construction of a wooden Japanese bridge and the planting of exotic species added further to the Oriental atmosphere of this aquatic jewel.
• Musée des Impressionnismes The opening of this museum has helped to overcome visitors' frustration at finding no works by Monet on display at Giverny. An essential complement to a visit to the Fondation Monet, this museum, housed in the former Musée d’Art Américain, organises two temporary exhibitions each year in partnership with the Musée d’Orsay.Website: www.museedesimpressionnismesgiverny.com As part of the Normandy Impressionist Festival, the Musée des Impressionnismes Giverny will host the exhibition "Impressionism along the Seine" with more than sixty works on loan from the Musée d’Orsay. . • Fondation Claude-Monet Plunge into the heart of Monet's world with a visit to his house and gardens. Both have retained their original appearance, so that as you stroll around the property you almost expect to bump into the artist himself at any moment. Both the house and garden are bursting with a symphony of colour. The art collection is a veritable museum of Impressionism, with works by Manet, Renoir, Degas, Pissarro, Sisley, Cézanne, Caillebotte, Signac and Berthe Morisot.
• The former Hôtel Baudy This is where many of the American painters who visited Giverny stayed. The hotel was always full and famous guests included Cézanne, who had his own studio here. The hotel has been restored and the large sloping garden behind the building has been laid out as it would have been during Monet's time.
• Monet's tombIn the centre of rue Claude-Monet. Visitors wanting to pay a final tribute to Claude Monet should not miss his tomb, which is situated slightly away from the village cemetery, behind the church. A dozen or so Impressionist art galleries are dotted along rue Claude-Monet and rue Blanche Hoschedé-Monet.
A bastion of the Viking conquest of France (the town is located less than 80km from Paris!), Vernon has retained several interesting vestiges of its rich historical past, despite having suffered heavy bombing during the Second World War.Monet often came to Vernon. He was particularly interested in Notre-Dame church, which is surrounded by a maze of medieval streets lined with half-timbered houses. Note the 22m-high Archives tower, all that remains of the castle built during the reign of Philippe-Auguste. Bonington has left a delightful lithograph of the tower.
• Musée Municipal Alphonse-Georges-PoulainHoused in an attractive town house dating from the 15th and 17th centuries, this museum offers two unusual approaches to 19th and 20th century art. The section dedicated to animal art is unique in Normandy and contains more than 300 paintings and sculptures. The second collection of paintings focuses on the work of Monet and his friends (Vuillard, Denis, Valloton etc), as well as the many artists who worked around Giverny in intellectual proximity to the master. The main attractions of the visit are two paintings by Monet left to the museum by the artist: Cliff at Pourville and a small round Waterlilies painted in 1908.
• Vernonnet Cross the Seine to the right bank. At the end of the bridge on your left, note the unusual corbelled house which seems to defy the laws of gravity. This is the Vieux Moulin or Old Mill, which balances precariously on what's left of the arches of a 12th century bridge which is no longer standing. A little further on you come to Vernonnet. It was here in 1912 that Bonnard bought his half-timbered house "Ma Roulotte" with its fine views of the Seine.Bonnard's approach to art had much in common with that of Monet, whom he often visited, and his paintings of this period show many similarities with works such as The Irises and The Waterlilies.
• Les AndelysOne of the most beautiful spots along the Seine valley, Les Andelys is famous for its fortified castle which overlooks a loop in the river. Over the years many writers (Flaubert, Conan Doyle, Paul Fort) and painters (Monet, Signac, Léger) have come here in search of inspiration.The Seine inspired many painters. Signac, won over by the Divisionist style, painted landscapes here which were described by the art critic Fénéon as "full of chromatic intensity" . However, it was the Château Gaillard, the fortress built by Richard the Lionheart, King of England, which most fascinated painters to the region. Wanting to pay tribute to Poussin, Turner portrayed him in front of his painting Château-Gaillard in the 17th Century. Another artist who painted here was Daubigny, who depicted the castle at sunset.Château-Gaillard is open throughout the year. • Musée Nicolas-PoussinThis small museum houses paintings by the Norman Post-Impressionist artists (including some fine works by Eugène Clary), some Fauvist works, as well as representations of Château-Gaillard according to the plans of Viollet-le-Duc and a room dedicated to Poussin, sometimes referred to as the "French Raphael".
• Around Les Andelys: EtrepagnyThis prosperous small town was the birthplace of Louis Anquetin, one of the greatest painters of the 19th century. Although much admired by Van Gogh, Gauguin and Lautrec, the work of this painter is largely unknown today. Anquetin initially painted Impressionist canvases influenced by Monet. He went on to invent Cloisonnism, studying the play of light through the lead-framed coloured stained glass on his parents' veranda.
• GisorsIn 1873, Corot painted A Mill at Gisors, a painting of extraordinary simplicity. Pissaro described Gisors in glowing terms: "splendid woods with extraordinary uneven ground, ruins of the Château de la Reine-Blanche, in the garden, there are large trees and old towers covered with vegetation, and in the distance views of the church towers – it's delightful". Explore the charming villages around Gisors, such as Saint-Denis-le-Ferment, Bazincourt, where Pissaro painted several views, and Eragny, where he lived for nearly 30 years until his death in 1903. • Saint-Gervais-et-Saint-Protais church This church was built between the 13th and 16th centuries. • Castle Built from 1093 to 1184, the castle was begun by the son of William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy, and completed by Henry II of England.
Contacts and useful links
Most of these websites are available in English. Once on these website, please click on your country flag.Les Portes de l'Eure Tourist Office Tel. : 0033 232 51 39 60 www.cape-tourisme.fr
Les Andelys Tourist Officewww.ville-andelys.frDiscover a whole host of information on the Eure Tourist Board's website. Click here to view the Accommodation and The not to be missed and unexpected Eure (in French only) sections. Tel : 0033 232 62 04 27www.eure-tourisme.fr
Click here for the Normandy Impressionist Festival programme.
The main events in Giverny and Vexin Normand include:• The Musée des Impressionnismes Giverny will host the "Impressionism along the Seine" exhibition which comprises more than sixty works on loan from the Musée d’Orsay.