Thursday, June 23, 2011

Giverny House

After I finished my sketch at the lily pond, we went into the main house, where Monet had his first studio.  (His final studio, which is even bigger, is now the gift shop)   This was a big barn of a room with a landing at the entrance.  As I stood on the landing, waiting for people to clear the stairs, I looked across the room at the double row of painting that hung starting at shoulder high.  They must have been reproductions, but so many of them were familiar to me, it gave me the sudden palpable sense of being in his presence.  Then, as I descended the stairs I had the thought that Monet must have touched this same stair rail thousands of times as he descended,  already lost in thought about his current work.

I truly got goosebumps; that room had a powerful effect.  Once again I was struck by the sense of a master painter who was determined to arrange his environment and life to create beautiful things to paint.

Then I went outside and found a quiet bench to sketch the roses on the garden wall, with a group of school children nearby, all with matching teal caps.  I'm sure Monet would have wanted to paint them, too.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Monet's Giverny

The next day we took the train from Paris to Monet's farm and gardens at Giverny.  Walking up the road through the town of Giverny to the house,  I was worried because it was very overcast and pretty cool.  But my first sight of the gardens made me forget that completely.  They were stunning.  It seemed everything was in bloom at once; lush rows of irises, roses and lots of other flowers of whose name I should know.  There were masses of blooms in a seemingly casual design.  But clearly Monet had a strong idea of what would be beautiful to experience, and to paint.

This is the famous lily pond, but when we were there there were no lilies yet.  I was surprised to see that there are two identical Japanese bridges, one on each end of the pond.  It would be a peaceful place to relax if it weren't overrun by tourists.  But it was possible to find a corner to myself and imagine that this idyllic garden was mine alone.

Monday, June 13, 2011


Paris...  I can't think of a better place to begin a vacation.  My husband and I had booked a two week Rick Steves tour that started in Paris and ended in Rome.  We had been to Europe several times before;  this trip would be a sort of sampler of the highlights of France, Switzerland, Germany and Italy, some familiar sights and a lot that was new.  We were looking forward to sitting back and enjoying the company and the scenery while someone else handled the details.  And I had big plans for watercolor sketching, and speaking French (passably) and Italian (badly).

We had planned a few days in Paris before the trip started to get oriented and have more time to do some things we missed on the last trip.  I didn't even try to paint on that first day: you arrive in the morning punch drunk from not having slept but exhilarated to finally be there.

On the second day I was more human.  In the afternoon I was sitting on a bench in Parc de Tour St. Jaque, near the Hotel de Ville,  trying to stay awake and to sketch.  This sweet looking grey haired gentleman approached with a movie camera and gestured: could he film me?  I nodded yes, and continued painting.  When he was finished he smiled at me and said "Grazie".  And I said, in Italian "I speak a little Italian."  To which he responded, in Italian "Better than me", smiled and went on his way.  So cool!  Sitting in a park in Paris, painting and speaking Italian after I had been speaking French all day.  This trip was off to a good start!

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