Melbourne Winter Masterpieces
Monet’s Garden

The Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris

The view from a train: discovery of Giverny

Claude Monet
Field of yellow irises at Giverny (Champ d’iris jaunes à Giverny) 1887
oil on canvas
45.0 x 100.0 cm
Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris
Gift of Michel Monet, 1966 (inv. 5172)
© Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris, © Bridgeman-Giraudon / Presse

In 1876 Monet was commissioned to paint decorative panels in the country home of Ernest Hoschedé, a wealthy businessman and collector of Impressionist paintings. In the weeks he spent there, Monet became close to Ernest’s wife, Alice, and to their five children. When Ernest went bankrupt in 1877, Monet, his wife Camille Doncieux and their two sons Jean and Michel pooled resources with the Hoschedés, and from 1878 the families lived together at Vétheuil.

Life at Vétheuil, although marred by money problems and Camille’s declining health, was serene for Monet. He worked constantly, and Alice nursed Camille. Following Camille’s death in 1879, Alice assumed the role of mother to Jean and Michel. Ernest worked in Paris and abroad, spending little time at home, and Alice and Monet’s intimate relationship developed into love. In 1881 they moved to Poissy and rented an inadequate, flood-prone house. Afraid that Alice would return to Ernest, Monet searched for a more salubrious home, declaring, ‘I shall travel until I have found the countryside and house that suit me’.

In spring 1883, while on a train to Rouen, Monet spied Giverny, a village some eighty kilometres from Paris, located between the Vexin hills and the Seine. Its combination of meadows filled with wildflowers, lanes, fields, hills and streams offered infinite painting possibilities. Monet found Giverny’s largest house, Le Pressoir, available to rent. Pink with grey shutters, it stood in a clos normand, or traditional walled garden, comprising flowerbeds, orchards and a vegetable plot sloping down to a road. Monet’s dealer Paul Durand-Ruel helped finance the move to Giverny, where Monet and his family would remain for the rest of their lives.

The Monet and Hoschedé family under the lime tree at Giverny c.1886
gelatin silver photograph
Musee Marmottan Monet, Paris
© Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris, © Bridgeman-Giraudon / Presse

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Afternoon light, Le Pressoir, Giverny
Photo: Sophie Matthiesson

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