The design of Claude Monet's garden at Giverny

Hughes, Mary V., Division of Landscape Architecture , University of Virginia
Byrd, Warren T., Department of Landscape Architecture, University of Virginia

This study traces the reciprocal influence that the two great passions of Claude Monet's life, painting and gardening, had on one another. From 1883 to his death in 1926, the Impressionist painter devoted much of his time and resources to the design of his two gardens at Giverny, France: a geometrically arranged flower garden and a curvilinear water garden featuring a pond of exotic waterlilies. Through many successive alterations, Monet created the inspired gardens represented in the memorable canvases of his later years. The evolution of the design has been documented by comparing descriptions of the garden's changing appearance available through primary sources such as Monet's letters, accounts of the artist's contemporaries, photographs and the garden paintings, supplemented by interviews with those who are familiar with the design through family ties or association with the recent garden restoration. Finally, consultation of secondary source material written by art historians and critics provided the basis for understanding parallel developments in Monet's painting. The results of the study confirm the close, but complex, relationship between the arts of painting and garden design. The transformation of the garden from a two-dimensional "picture" into a three dimensional sequence of "places" parallels the changing emphasis in Monet's painting from the realistic portrayal of external appearances to the evocative environment of the panoramic Waterlily Decorations, which invite comparison with the music of Debussy and Symbolist poetry. The similarities between the evolution of the arts of painting and design suggest that the garden, which served at first as a motif for painting, reflecting an Impressionist use of color, brushstroke and composition, later attained such significance in Monet's life that its sensory and spatial qualities determined the form of the later paintings. Monet ultimately succeeded in creating, through his growing skill in three-dimensional design, a personal paradise that became the focus of the public and private rituals of the artist's daily life in his final years. Recognized by Monet as his "most beautiful masterpiece," the garden represents a unique artistic creation in which diverse, often contrasting elements were unified by the aesthetic perceptions of a painter whose eye was trained to observe the finest nuances of color and the subtle play of light and shadow.

Note: Abstract extracted from PDF file via OCR.

MLA (Master of Landscape Architecture)
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