Today I was granted the opportunity to visit Monet's property in Giverny, just outside Paris -
And what a privilege it was.
My girlfriend and I have now been on the continent (Europe) for a week. We spent. 3 days in Rome and have been in Paris since Saturday. As a budding art historian, you can see how this holiday is a dream come true for me - but despite the great trip so far, there was one massive disappointment...
Why is the Louvre so popular? It's a tragic excuse for an art gallery and my reasoning for such a bad label is this - it is more about tourists' money than it is about art, with miles of galleries filled to the brim. From the moment you join the 100ft queue to the moment you leave, it's a race. Who can get to the Mona Lisa and take the worst flash photograph first? That's another point. Why do they let people photograph with flash on? Even with protocols like museum grade wax in place, it's still awful practice to let trigger happy camera users become strobe lights against Venus de Milo.
I came away tremendously disappointed. There were some brilliant sections of the museum, such as the majority of the French paintings on the 2nd floor, and the Jan Vermeer was far less disappointing, rather wonderful actually, than Da Vinci's infamous 'masterpiece' - which I will talk about later - but overall I wasn't impressed.
L'Orangerie was far superior and here I saw the collection of 8 panoramic Water Lilies paintings donated by Monet to Paris in 1909. I have now seen all of the major paintings in this collection and these are amongst the greatest. Following the hours of the day from sunrise to sunset, they chart Monet's 'La Pont Japanaise' as the water changes around the lilies. They offer a wonderful sense of tranquility.
This was all the day before we went to Giverny.
As some of you may be aware I am conducting a lecture (more of a talk, it's less daunting/potentially boring that way) on Impressionism and Monet's influence on French art. It's Friday 16th August at 6:30pm, Tadcaster Social Club - see 'EVENTS' for more details. This was part of my research for the lecture and part of my gathering of photographs process.
I arrived, stayed and came away fascinated. What a beautiful place. As I looked out the window of the bedroom where Monet used to sleep I couldn't help but suddenly realise why he painted as he did. My understanding of Impressionism has received an invaluable boost.
The house has been recently restored to contain excellent reproductions of the works by other impressionist masters, the likes of Renoir and Manet and others who lived in the Seine Valley. It feels as though you are walking through a time capsule. The house also contains original furnishings. Because little photographic evidence exists of the house's layout, much was done from diary entries from Monet's friends and contemporaries.
The gardens follow the designs of Monet's mind, so that they look as they would have done alongside the house in 1920 - 6 years before Monet's death. Across the road (strange I know) is the Japanese Garden...
...which is about the most beautiful place I have ever been. It moves, lives and breathes like a living painting. It is the life, soul and death of French Impressionism - Monet lives through his garden, in a sort of odd way. I had the feeling I was being watched. I wonder what he would make of his house as a museum...
This experience has changed my perception on Impressionism. I have loved it always, but now more so have I fallen for it. There is now much more for me to discuss in my lecture and many links to be illustrated which explain the influence of Monet and the development of French Impressionism.
Steve Lawson - Paris, France, August 6th, 2013