Claude Monet: between paintbrush and trowel

Audio 21:25
A Hird

“Apart from painting and gardening, I’m good for nothing,” wrote the father of impressionism Claude Monet. Well better to excel in two domains than dabble in many. As thousands of visitors flock to a huge retrospective of the artist’s work at the Grand Palais in Paris, we visit the gardens at Giverny in Normandy, his home from 1883 to his death in 1926.


Monet didn’t so much paint what he saw in the gardens: the weeping willows, water lillies, irises, Japanese bridges... rather he had the gardens fashioned in the first place to satisfy his obsession with water and light.

He replaced the original apple trees in front of the house with flower beds organised in blocks of colours like paint boxes, his choices playing with the garden’s light and shade.

He had the neighbouring stream diverted, bringing water into the gardens to be able to create huge lily ponds. He even got the dirt track resurfaced so the dust wouldn’t soil his lily pads.

Giverny offered Monet the tranquility, space and inspiration to accomplish some of his greatest works. These include the series on Rouen Cathedral, the Houses of Parliament in London and of course the renowned Nymphéa decorations. His gift to the nation, something beautiful created from the debris of the First World War.

Rendezvous meets Jan Huntley from the Monet Foundation who unveils the green Monet through his gardens and studios.

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