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“Monet’s garden is regarded as one of his masterpieces, the appealing embodiment of nature that is adapted to the work of a painter of light.” Clemenceau. (French Prime Minister during World War I and friend of Monet’s.)
Claude Monet began painting as a teenager, under the direction of Eugene Boudin in Le Havre, France. At the age of twenty-four he was accepted into the Académie des Beaux-Arts’s Salon de Paris, on his first attempt with the painting Pointe de la Heve at Low Tide. He went on to paint other paintings intended for the Salon, especially the multi-paneled work Luncheon the Grass (1866) that were rejected for their “unfinished” qualities.
Seeking an alternative to the only venue available for artists to exhibit work at the time—the official, state-sponsored Salon—a group of artists rented a studio and opened their gallery where they could independently display their art. Anyone could join this group and exhibit paintings in the rented space, as long as they contributed the sixty franc entry fee to offset the costs of renting the space at 35 boulevard des Capucines.
This group of independent artists included Claude Monet, Mary Cassatt, Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas, Berthe Morisot and Alfred Sisley. They rejected the rules of the Salon, that painting must only be of historical or classical subjects. They wanted to explore such subjects as urban landscapes and fleeting moments of everyday life, and not paint only using the technique of invisible brushstrokes sanctioned by the Salon. Besides, for others not already accepted into the conservative Salon, the process could take years.
The idea of opening an independent gallery today doesn’t sound radical, but at the time, galleries only displayed the work of non-living artists. Opening an independent gallery, regardless of subject matter or painting technique, was a subversive act in and of itself.
Claude Monet, one of the founding members of the group, painted Soleil Levant (Impression, Sunrise), which was included in the first of these independent shows in 1874.
Critics panned the first show, calling the art an abomination. The art looked like sketches, glimpses and of course, appeared unfinished. The critics appropriated the title of Monet’s Soleil Levant (Impression, Sunrise) and concluded that all the paintings in the exhibition were mere Impressions. It was not a compliment. But by the 1880s the Impressionists embraced the name the critics had given them.
Monet was inspired by the changing colors of the interplay of light and atmosphere in outdoor settings. He traveled the French countryside and beyond to capture moment after moment of the same scene in at different times of day, in different weather, documenting the passing seasons.
Monet’s first wife, Camille-Léonie Doncieux lived in his neighborhood in Paris and worked for him as a model. The two had a son in 1866, and lived together in poverty, sharing a cold one-room apartment, often depending on friends for meals. They married in 1870. On the move to escape creditors, unpaid rent or conscription into the army during the Franco-Prussian war, the couple moved to La Havre, the Netherlands and eventually England. There Monet and his friend Camille Pissarro visited museums and discussed the merits of John Constable and Joseph Mallord William Turner’s works. They were intrigued by Turner’s ability to capture the whiteness of snow without using much white paint, but rather by the juxtaposition of color. The English landscapes become an inspiration to Monet, as he worked to develop his color palette, painting many series of works, including those of Waterloo Bridge.
Monet painted Camille and their son Jean numerous times, including Camille Monet and her Son on a Hill and The Poppy Field—in which mother and son appear twice. Many portraits of Jean as a baby and small boy exist, including The Cradle and Jean Monet on His Horse Tricycle.
After the war, the three moved back to France to share a house with a formerly wealthy department store owner and patron of Monet’s, Ernest Hoschede and his wife, Alice. Camille had a second baby, degrading her delicate health. Much of the money Monet made selling paintings at the time went to pay for Camille’s medical care. Alice Hoschede nursed her during her illness, and after her death, the Hoschede family raised Monet’s two sons alongside their own six children. Ernest Hoschede went bankrupt and left for Belgium. Monet, Alice Hoschede, and all eight children moved to a suburb of Paris, which Monet greatly disliked. Riding the train one day in 1883, Monet discovered the area of Giverny. He rented and then eventually bought the small house there. He spent the rest of his life landscaping the garden and adding on to the house, painting all the while. When Ernest Hoschede died in 1892 Alice and Monet married.
Monet lived in his house in Giverny for over forty years. He had been living in the house and landscaping his garden for over 15 years, creating just the right setting, when he painted The Flowered Garden in 1901.
The Flowered Garden or in French Le Jardin enflouri is oil on canvas, 89 cm by 92 cm, 35 inches by 36 inches, not quite 3 feet wide by three feet tall in size.
Similar to Pathways in the Garden, the Flowered Garden is a profusion of flowers, filling the canvas with color, depicting one of the many paths through the traditional and more “English” part of the garden. While Pathways takes a view of the path and house straight on, The Flowered Garden is arranged along a strong diagonal. The strongest line starts in the lower right corner of the canvas, leading the eye, along with another parallel line from the center of the canvas, along with the dappled ground to the door of the house. The garden is an explosion of color, everything blooms in what feels like high summer. We can almost smell the roses on the on the left and appreciate the shade sheltering us from the intense summer sunshine. Cypress and spruce arch over the walkway and we can almost hear our shoes crunch the gravel on the path. Light and shade, sunlight and shadow are brought to life.
The darks of the deep shade in the branches of the trees contrast with the brightly lit front of the house to give a dynamic expression to the painting. Lights and darks, opposite colors contrasting against one another, and the dramatic diagonal set this canvas up to be full color and movement. The left is sunlit while the right basks in the shade. The horizontal brushstrokes of the path juxtapose warm yellows and oranges in sunlight and cooler shades of purple, the dappled areas touched by rough brushwork of the opposite tone, letting other colors shine through. Darker and warmer colors bring the path right to our feet. The rows of flowers and trees recede along the path, setting up a rhythm that leads our eye to the brilliant face of the house.
Violets and purple, along with its color opposite yellow and gold, make the painting sing with life. The bright blue sky peeks through the branches of the trees. In the foreground, where the plants and path are in the shade, blue and orange—also complimentary colors—take our eyes on a tour of the garden. The garden, like the painting, is lined with walkways and flower beds, and the flower beds themselves are full of loose overflowing flowers. For the last twenty years of his life, the garden was Monet’s exclusive subject, painting an environment he himself had created, plant by plant, color by color. In The Flowered Garden, Monet’s two fascinations come together: the landscape of flowering plants of the Clos Normand and painting.
If you visit Monet’s house at Giverny his collection of Japanese prints hang on the walls of his home and you can see how these might have influenced his work. Monet usually lived by the sea or in the country, but he would occasionally come to Paris. He was in Paris for the Universal Exposition of 1867 when the Japanese pavilion exhibited Hokusai’s work. Hokusai’s prints, including Thirty-six views of Mt Fuji, may have been an inspiration for Monet working in series of paintings.
When Monet moved into his house in 1883, the garden was a small fruit tree orchard and a few flower beds, surrounded by a wall that blocked the view of the neighboring hills and Seine valley. He immediately had the walls reduced in height to open up the view. His vision was to turn the garden into something new, something unlike the highly groomed gardens popular at the time with trimmed hedges and smooth lawns. His garden is neat, with paths crossing through flower beds, but the flower beds are lush and a bit wild. No topiaries groomed into the shapes of animals or fake Greek columns are to be seen.
The Flowered Garden allows us a glimpse into an early version of Monet's garden. The main walkway going towards the house was originally lined by the spruce and cypress trees seen on the right side of the painting. Monet eventually had the cypress trees removed and replaced them with five curving metal arches that spanned the paths overhead. The arches were soon covered with wisteria and roses, like the ones we see on the left of The Flowered Garden. The spruce trees were first experimentally reduced in height, and then removed altogether. If The Flowered Garden is the “before” Pathways in the Garden, painted in 1902, is the “after.”
When they first moved into the house, Monet had eight small helpers to water and took care of the garden with him. In the beginning, he and the children did all the work. As his fame, and the garden, expanded and grew so did his help. He eventually built greenhouses and hired up to seven gardeners at a time to tend to the 100,000 plants.
How to paint a painting that is both descriptive and expressive? For Monet, it started on the Normandy coast, where he stayed in Pouville for a while. There, he painted the cliffs, water, sky, and shoreline at different times of day and it is in these series of paintings that we see his genius and singular style emerge: The Cliffwalk Pourville.
The weather along the coast of Normandy changes dramatically, and Monet could explore all its moods. Foggy, sunny, windy, darkened with clouds, or glaringly bright with sunlight, the local conditions provided an ever-changing landscape to explore. Moving beyond Normandy, Monet continued to explore every nuance of water and sky, plants, and air that we see in Poplars, white and yellow effect. This research comes together once he is in his garden.
Monet blended the blossoms in his garden as he blended his paint. In the Flowering Garden, we see blue and orange, purple and yellow, saturating the canvas with color. Because of the colors, without even knowing exactly the details of the flowers, we can almost guess what time of year it is. Pink climbing roses in full bloom on the left, dots of zinnias, dahlias, strokes of salvias, spikes of hollyhocks contribute to the riot of color in the flower beds. Nasturtiums peek out in the center foreground, all these combine with the intense sunlight, to create a scene in late June or July.
On the other side of his flower-filled garden, separated by a train track, Monet designed and created his Japanese garden. The pond allowed him to deeply explore another of his favorite motifs, that of light on water. Since painting the shoreline at Pourville, his interest in capturing light playing on the water, reflections, and glimmers continued as he painted his personally-constructed pond. Recording the sky reflected amid the shadows of willows and clouds shimmering among water lilies— these were his sole subjects in his later life. His paintings evolved from recording the Japanese pond, the bridge, and the flowers and became more and more abstract as we see in Pool with Waterlilies. Monet's eyesight also was failing, and at some point, details ceased to matter.
“I must have flowers, always, and always,” said Claude Monet. Whether it is early work done in Paris like Boulevard de Capucines where he arranged for the first Impressionism show in an independent gallery, or mid-career work like The Flowering Garden, late work that is almost pure luminescence the subject is always and ever: light.
Claude Monet declared “My garden is my most beautiful masterpiece.” In the Flowered Garden his masterpiece blooms.
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If you have any request to alter your reproduction of The Flowered Garden, you must email us after placing your order and we'll have an artist contact you. If you have another image of The Flowered Garden that you would like the artist to work from, please include it as an attachment. Otherwise, we will reproduce the above image for you exactly as it is.
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