A passion for gardening
Claude Monet in his garden (detail) 1880
albumen silver photograph
Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris
© Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris, © Bridgeman-Giraudon / Presse
By the late 1880s Monet’s thirst for travel was abating. His interest in the garden at Giverny began to extend beyond its function as a source of cut flowers to paint in times of bad weather. Monet had discovered other self-exiles from Paris who were also interested in gardening. The writer Octave Mirbeau and the artists Gustave Caillebotte and Camille Pissarro all lived in nearby villages. Soon they were visiting one another and exchanging cuttings and letters about plants, which they ordered from specialist growers. Their gardens attracted fellow enthusiasts from Paris, including the eminent journalist Gustave Geffroy and the publisher Georges Clemenceau.
Fuelled by this shared passion, Monet’s expertise in horticulture burgeoned. A series of successful exhibitions as well as financial assistance from his dealer Paul Durand-Ruel enabled Monet in late 1890 to buy the house and grounds at Giverny. He set about reshaping his garden, writing, ‘I must admit I am reluctant to leave Giverny, especially now that I am redesigning the house and garden as I want them’.
As he developed the means to create a world on his own terms, Monet’s interests shifted towards Japanese aesthetics, which he had always admired and which were popular in avant-garde circles. Perhaps inspired by James McNeill Whistler, Monet decorated his dining room as a complete ensemble, including blue and white ceramics and yellow walls to show off his collection of Japanese prints. Monet might also have been considering outdoor Oriental effects and in 1891 invited a Japanese gardener to Giverny.