Chasing Claude Monet: Giverny and the art of living

a flurry of flowers
a flurry of flowers
purples, pinks, and blues
purples, pinks, and blues
the water lily pool
the water lily pool
A winding lane flanked by rows of flowers
A winding lane flanked by rows of flowers

The gardens at Giverny

Having visited Giverny, the home of the Impressionist painter Claude Monet, several years ago, I was struck by the fact that nothing resembles a formal French garden less than Giverny's glorious, flurry of flowers, water, and greenery. Upon seeing it for the first time, it literally took my breath away.

I love flowers and I love color, especially blue: a color which the impressionists used in abundance. There are overgrown beds of colorful perrennials, roses, peonies and red poppies; exquisite blue iris, foxglove and lupine, also ornamental apple and cherry trees. But the highlight of these amazing gardens is the water lilly pond, which Monet painted many times over.

Giverny sits on the "right Bank" of the River Seine. The village lies 50 miles from Paris west and slightly north. Grape growing is one of the primary activities in the area and the wines are supurb. The village, itself, dates back to the Middle Ages, and is dotted with tiny churches built partially in the Romanesque style. It has remained a small rural setting with a modest population, numbering around 300 in 1883 when Monet discovered it. It has since seen a boom in tourism since the restoration of Monet's house and gardens

Flashback to trip
We landed in Paris and were swept away in a small Citroen to our modest guesthouse. We had taken the Eurorail overnight from Venice and were exhausted after the long 13 hour ride. But we had booked a double private cabin. And, although it was rather expensive, we were glad we did. At least we would get a little sleep and a croissant and coffee upon waking. I really don't like trains much, or boats, or planes because the movement make me nauseated. But, Carol, my best friend ever since we met teaching in the public high schools of Chicago, loves them. She was still sleeping by the time I had finished my croissant and the train pulled into the Gare de Lyon in the center of Paris.

We decided to stay in Paris only a couple of nights, as both of us had spent quite a bit of time there before and we were anxious to get to Giverny, and then off to the south. We were art enthusiasts and especially liked the impressionists. We loved visiting the places in France where they hung out in the late 1800s. After Monet moved to Giverny, he entertained many artist friends, including Sisly, Manet, Cezanne, Millet, Degas and Berthe Morisot. He also befriended many American artists as well, including Mary Cassett. Most, of course, were Impressionists.

Monet discovered Giverny while taking the train to the countryside one weekend. Viewing it out of the window as he traveled along, he decided it would be the perfect retreat to paint, and live the kind of life, close to nature, he had always envisioned. It was here that he developed his own unique art of living and his ideas about food, which should be beautifully prepared, using whatever foods were available from the earth. He used recipes from favorite restaurants, friends, writers, painters , and actors and developed some of his own.

the front entrance of Monet's home
the front entrance of Monet's home
Monet's home a Gyverny
Monet's home a Gyverny

The house at Giverny

In keeping with Monet's love for combining varying colors, the rough cast exterior of the house is painted a dark pinkish color, and the shutters, the balcony, and the stairs leading to the front door, a Veronese green.

The interior of the house being as colorful as the exterior, the dining room is painted a bright chrome yellow, the sitting room a medium shade of blue, and the drawing room mauve.

In the kitchen are varying shades of blue, from cobalt to white, with blue and white french tiles on the walls behind the stove, the sink, and half up the remaining two. The top half is painted green.

The kitchen floor is covered with large Burnt Sienna tiles. All of the hues were created by Monet and remain true to the originals.

Interesting facts about Monet and more paintings

Claude Monet, the artist, oversaw everything at Giverny, and still was a prolific painter
Claude Monet, the artist, oversaw everything at Giverny, and still was a prolific painter

A gastronomical feast

Besides his fondness for color, Monet was definitely enthusiastic about food and preferred to grow everything the family ate in his own gardens and farmland. The two and a half acre kitchen-garden was a work of art. There were fruit trees and herbs and vegetables of every kind imaginable. He even grew his own turkeys and raised his own ducks and chickens. He was fanatical about the poultry served at the table. His entire estate was carefully planned out and maintained.

His lust for haute cuisine was obvious in the recipes he left behind after his death. Eveyrthing from rich pates and sauces, to mandarine duck, to homemade ice cream was created in his kitchen; all freshly picked, killed, or churned.

Potato Leek Soup
Potato Leek Soup

Monet's Favorite recipes

Soupe au poireaux et pomme de terre
(Leek and Potato Soup)


1/2 cup unsalted butter
5 or 6 leeks, white parts only, cut into 1/2 inch slices
1 teaspoon salt
4 large potatoes

Heat 1/4 cup of the butter in a pan and saute the leeks
While they are cooking, heat 1 quart water
with salt to just under a boil.
Add water to leeks. Cover pan, reduce heat and simmer
45 minutes. Add potato slices, cover, and continue
cooking for 20 more minutes.
Add the rest of the butter before serving

*note: If I were making this soup, I would use skim milk, instead of water

Genoa (almond) cake
Genoa (almond) cake

Pain de Genes
(Genoa Cake)

1/2 cup salted butter
1 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
5 eggs
2 1/4 cups ground almonds
2 tablespoons Kirsch
2/3 cup flour
1/2 cup sifted confectioner's sugar
1 cup slivered almonds

Grease a shallow 8-inch cake pan.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cream butter in a bowl and beat in sugar,
beating until creamy. Continue beating
while incorporating the eggs, one at a time,
beating well after each addition.
Beat in the ground almonds with the kirsch.
Finally add flour and beat well.
Pour into prepared pan and bake 40 minutes.
or until golden. If desired, sprinkle with
sifted confectioner's sugar and top with
slivered almonds.

Well known Monet paintings

La Promenade
La Promenade
Bridge over a pool of lilies
Bridge over a pool of lilies
Houses of parliament
Houses of parliament

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Comments 29 comments

Dink96 profile image

Dink96 7 years ago from Phoenix, AZ

How lucky you were to travel to Giverny and experience Monet's surroundings firsthand! I saw a large exhibition of his work a few years back, but would jump at the chance to see where he actually painted so much of his work. I really appreciate your lush descriptions of the home. You really make the reader feel as if they are present along with you. Thank you!


alekhouse profile image

alekhouse 7 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky Author

Thanks for the nice comment, glad you enjoyed it.


bgamall profile image

bgamall 7 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

This is such a colorful and impressive hub. I have seen a few Monets and a few Van Goghs.


alekhouse profile image

alekhouse 7 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky Author

Thanks for the nice comment. Guess the Impressionists and post-impressionists are pretty popular. I know I'm a fan.


O'Brien 7 years ago

I loved this post! After your vibrant description of his home, I felt compelled to add this destination to my bucket list. The addition of recipes was a nice touch. It makes him seem more human and less legend.


alekhouse profile image

alekhouse 7 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky Author

Thanks for the nice comments. Your bucket list? You mean, of places to go some day? It's truly amazing. If you can ever swing it, you ought to go.


Austin, TX 7 years ago

I've been there...such an amazing place...your article captures it beautifully.


alekhouse profile image

alekhouse 7 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky Author

Wow, that was nice to hear. Come again soon. Thanks.


Pearldiver profile image

Pearldiver 7 years ago from Tomorrow - In Words & NZ Time.

Alek what an awesome hub.. Thank you. I love Monet's works and his Leek & Potato soup recipe. You photos are beautiful and capture a magical place. What a great choice of travel destination, I'm sure from the way you have written this; that you enjoyed walking in the steps of one of the great masters. Take care.


rebekahELLE profile image

rebekahELLE 7 years ago from Tampa Bay

I stumbled upon this wonderful hub by seeing your post in the forum. very beautiful. five or six years ago, I wrote a fantasy poem inspired by one of the pics you have posted. I have it on another site, but thinking of making it into a hub here. at the time I had a print of his Le Jardin in my bedroom and one night I imagined being in that garden...

would love to see the real thing. I have seen some of his original paintings at the musee d'orsay in Paris and I felt so humbled being in their presence. thanks for sharing here!


alekhouse profile image

alekhouse 7 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky Author

Thanks for the very nice comments. I would love to read your fantasy poem. Is it here on hub pages? I know how you feel about his work. The entire first floor of my bed and breakfast is filled with prints by the impressionists, three of which are by Monet.


rebekahELLE profile image

rebekahELLE 7 years ago from Tampa Bay

hi, no the poem is not here.. yet. It is one of my planned hubs as part of my Paris/France articles. the actual writing of the poem took a few months, and I think it would make an interesting read for anyone who enjoys writing poetry, loves art and the imagination of creative thinking. It sounds like a lovely bed and breakfast inn, how wonderful!


alekhouse profile image

alekhouse 7 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky Author

RE: "...anyone who enjoys writing poetry, loves art and the imagination of creative thinking." Sounds like me. Looking forward to it.


RosWebbART profile image

RosWebbART 6 years ago from Ireland

Nice hub. To have visited the actual garden... lucky you!!!


alekhouse profile image

alekhouse 6 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky Author

Thanks for the comments, Roswebbart, appreciate it. Yes, it certainly was an awesome place.


Lisa HW profile image

Lisa HW 6 years ago from Massachusetts

alek, what a nice Hub. I love Monet.


alekhouse profile image

alekhouse 6 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky Author

Thanks for the nice comment. I love Monet too, as well as many of the other impressionists


Kendall H. profile image

Kendall H. 6 years ago from Northern CA

Planning on going there someday! Now after reading your hub I know I definitely have to go!


Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 6 years ago from East Coast, United States

alek - I had a friend who visited Giverny, spent some time nearby. She visited the garden every day at different times, taking pictures. She said at one point that she started thinking - 'I'm doing what Monet did, studying the garden and recording it in different lights at different times of day.' Then spent some time just standing there and crying, it was so beautiful. I loved this hub!


alekhouse profile image

alekhouse 6 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky Author

Kendall, You'll love it. Thanks for commenting


alekhouse profile image

alekhouse 6 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky Author

Dolores, What a wonderful idea your friend had then she took her pictures. I can see why she cried....it's so incredibly beautiful there. And the memory of such a great artist and that wonderful period in art history is truly amazing.


SilverGenes 6 years ago

Finding this hub was a lovely treat this morning. I had no idea he ran the estate himself! That's a full time job and yet he managed to paint so prolifically as well - it makes me a little ashamed of complaining about not having enough time for things. Perhaps a little Pain de Genes would make me feel better :) I'm all inspired now and may even work on my painting today. Thank you for a wonderful hub!


alekhouse profile image

alekhouse 6 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky Author

Thank you, SG, for the very nice comments. Glad you enjoyed the hub. I'm a big "Impressionist" enthusiast... have their prints hanging all over my house.


tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa

Giverny must be a wonderful place. I would love to visit so thanks for this virtual visit which I thoroughly enjoyed!

Will bookmark this for the recipes also which look just wonderful. Especially the leek and potato soup - great!

Love and peace

Tony


alekhouse profile image

alekhouse 5 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky Author

Glad you had a good time at Giverny. BTW, the soup is amazing. Let me know how you like it if you decide to make it?


nohod 5 years ago

Does anyone know the shade of blue used on the cabinets in Monet's kichen? we want to do our cabinet doors in the same style i.e. blue trim / white center


alekhouse profile image

alekhouse 5 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky Author

Try a paint store...maybe they can help you.


Claudia Tello profile image

Claudia Tello 4 years ago from Mexico

Lovely Hub! I created a backlink to in my recently published article "Impressionism: Mexican vs European Impressionist Art", using the anchor text “Claude Monet”. I hope you don't mind and I thank you for writing interesting, good quality Hubs that allow me to backlink and use this Hubpages tool.


alekhouse profile image

alekhouse 4 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky Author

@claudia Tello: What a nice comment. Of course I don't mind the link. And, as soon as I get a chance I will check out your hub...looking forward to it.

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