Map of Monet’s garden
Illustrator: Michelle Mackintosh
Monet’s fame and fortune were secured by his immensely successful exhibition of haystack paintings in 1891. His personal life also stabilised that year with his marriage to the Catholic Alice, following the death of Ernest Hoschedé. As Monet’s wealth increased, his idea for a separate exotic garden in which to house the rare and imported plants that increasingly distracted him began to take shape.
In 1893 Monet bought a 1,200 square-metre plot of land at the end of his garden, situated across the road that bordered his property. In former times a stream named the Ru had fed a pond used by medieval monks for fishing. Monet sought council approval to divert the Ru’s waters into a new pond, or bassin, he intended to create for the purpose of growing aquatic plants. His plans encountered bitter objections from neighbouring farmers, who feared the spread of exotic plants into the waterways.
Monet won the dispute and planted willows, bamboos, irises, Japanese cherries, lush grasses and water-loving edging plants around his bassin for, in his words, ‘the pleasure of the eye, and for motifs to paint’. He also constructed the most famous motif of all, an arched wooden bridge, painted green, inspired by the Japanese drum bridge depicted in woodblock prints. This famous structure would briefly dominate Monet’s paintings of his gardens, before his interest transferred to the floating waterlilies.