Author: Adrien Goetz
Photographer: Eric Sander
When I went to Giverny to view Monet’s historic home and lovingly recreated gardens, I knew very little about him. Yes, I knew that he was an Impressionist painter, most known for his series of water lilies. He’s not my favorite painter (Van Gogh gets that place of honor), but I always appreciated the surrealistic play of Impressionism, the way that it marries colors and images with feeling and atmosphere, capturing something beyond sight. Plus, the travel agency recommended a stop in Giverny based on our love of nature.
Imagine my surprise then that a stop made more on a whim (and because I lacked anything better to do) was one of my favorites, if not my favorite moments in France. I bought this book, Monet at Giverny, because I wanted the memory to live on in images better than those I took on my cell phone and, also, because for a bookworm, books totally count as souvenirs.
While Monet at Giverny is a coffee-table-like book, mostly pictures with short summaries, it captures the atmosphere of Monet’s house and two famous gardens. If you’ve seen these gardens, this quaint pink house with its green shutters and accents, you know that this isn’t a home, but a work of art itself, a retreat from reality, a place dedicated to the interplay of living light and color. It is, in my humble opinion, Monet’s best artwork, a testament to his passion and love.
The book gives us a bit about Monet’s life, including his scandalous second marriage (to his best friend’s wife – with whom he had probably been having an affair for years!), and his inspirations and growth into Impressionism. The real focus, however, is the house and gardens at Giverny and what Monet was creating here.
The pictures are lovingly detailed and are also interspersed with images of Monet’s own paintings and even a few famous portraits taken of him in his studios. Monet wanted to create an oasis, a place that took him away from war and inspired his art. His continual work to capture the light and color occurred among the fantastical, cultivated wildness of his garden. The images taken by Eric Sander and displayed in this book recreate the feeling and essence, the life of the gardens, as best as an image can do. Of course, the real thing is so much more evocative, and if you haven’t been to Giverny, this book will certainly make you want to go.
Reading through this book helped to refresh my memories and also helped me notice subtleties in style and layout that I missed during the crammed walk through of the house. For those looking for a summary but elegant and beautiful overview of Monet’s time at Giverny and his creation of living artwork, including a garden that was lovingly restored by the same man hired to restore Versailles, then this is the best place to start. The pictures and the information blend nicely, and it’s neither too little nor too much. For those of you contemplating visiting France, I cannot recommend Giverny more heartily.
– Frances Carden
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