Monet’s Green Thumb: How Art Grew From A Garden
June 7, 2012
Claude Monet’s garden in Giverny, France, draws half a million visitors a year, but for the next several months, you won’t have to travel farther than the Bronx to get a taste of the artist’s green thumb. The New York Botanical Garden has recreated Monet’s horticultural work for an exhibit that includes photographs, videos, rare documents and two of the impressionist’s paintings.
The New York garden is scaled down to be sure, but in some ways its abundance of flowers and colors makes it even more riotous than the original. You enter by stepping through a facade of Monet’s house, with its salmon walls and green shutters, and out into a long corridor of flowers.
The Trailblazing Gardener
Monet first rented his house at Giverny in 1883 and lived there until his death in 1926. In that time, he, his children and his stepchildren all worked in the garden. Eventually, he became wealthy enough to buy the house, buy more land and hire five gardeners to help out.
The exhibition also includes two original Monet paintings, both of flowers. One of the paintings,Irises, is darker in color and tone, and was painted during World War I. Film footage shows Monet wandering around his garden in 1915, his hat and huge beard dominating his face and a cigarette dangling from his lips. Also on display is Monet’s painting palette, the only one in existence. But his garden was clearly another kind of palette.
Forrest says Monet was constantly tweaking, mixing different plants together for new results. There was even a special section he referred to as the “paint box” beds, where, according to Forrest, “he experimented with color combinations and texture combinations and height combinations kind of off the beaten path before he was happy enough with those combinations to include them in his garden.”