Considering the family of artists that I come from you’d think I’d be all over Paris, reciting little know facts of monuments, paintings, relics. But museums have never really stirred me. I struggled through an art history class in college, but all that I’ve learned seems to have left me. As I stared at the Arc de Triomphe my vague memories left nothing for even a crumb of conversation. I couldn’t have had less of a want to get lost in the Louvre for a day. But my conscience started getting the best of me- ‘You were in Paris and didn’t go to the Louvre?!’ I know, I know. But it’s not for everyone and maybe it’s not for me either.
It’s too much. Too big, too overwhelming, too many things to look at, too much history to know to make it meaningful, just too. I need something a little more manageable, a little more me.
And that’s where Monet comes in, or rather, his house. Turns out, Monet lived for much of his life in Giverny, about an hour train ride west of Paris. For me this was my Louvre. A beautiful house (green as the garden), a beautiful garden (as bright as the flowers), some lily pads skimming softly on top of the water and the weeping willows doing what they do, hanging how they hang. This was something I could get excited about; this was something I couldn’t miss.
Slowly, I’ve found, I’m more interested in the backstory – the leading up to it: art, writing, anything – than the actual work itself. To create a great work, you must be inspired, or experience something that breaks open a new world in your head. What is it for the great artists? How did they see the world? Where did they come from? What did their parents do? Their brothers and sisters? What did they choose to study? What did they choose not to study? What did they believe? What did they collect? What did they do when they were bored? Where did it all start and what can I learn from that? And how did all of ‘this’ manifest in their work (painting, drawing, sculpture, novel, short story, musical score, photograph, performance, whatever it may be)?
I’m not sure what my visit to Monet’s house has taught me yet. Maybe it’s how to design a house, an inspiration to learn to garden (even though my thumb is definitely the opposite of green), a better understanding of color palettes, a reminder to find inspiration in the unfamiliar (Monet collected Japanese tiles and paintings, but never actually made it to Japan), and the list could go on, etc. The lesson could be any of those things. Maybe it’s a building block, creating a foundation for another experience, or maybe it’s a mess of all of them. Whatever will come of it, I look forward to pulling these lessons from what is now my past into some kind of significance in the future.
The Green Garden
The Water Garden
Around Vernon & Giverny
Pick the right day:
– Open from April through October from 9:30am to 6:00pm
– Standard entry (house & garden) is €9.50
Make your way:
– Take the high speed direct train from Paris St. Lazare to Vernon (€13.90 one way)
– From Vernon you can:
+shuttle bus (~€7 round trip)
+walk the 5km
+rent bicycles (€12 each/all day) at one of the shops across the street from the train station
*We rented bicycles and it was a lot of fun. Those give you the added bonus of being able to make your way easily around Vernon or Giverny after visiting Monet*