Claude Monet’s Secret Garden

The Guardian in a May 19, 2021 article announced that, after a closure of more than six months, the gardens at Giverny that inspired Monet’s world-famous paintings of water lilies and other masterpieces will reopen.

I was reminded of the Vancouver Art Gallery exhibition, “Claude Monet’s Secret Garden” held between June 24 – October 1, 2017, which featured 38 paintings from the Musée Marmottan Monet in Paris

What a wonderful experience it was to view Claude Monet’s artwork, which included paintings that had never left the borders of France for many years. I envisioned that I had returned to Giverny and walked the pathway with Claude Monet, listening to him tell of his love of colour, flowers and nature.

As Claude Monet aged, there was a shift in colours. Whites, greens and blues transitioned to muddier purple and yellow tones, which were evident in the paintings that were in the exhibition. In 1912, he was diagnosed with a nuclear cataract in both eyes. This was a disheartening time, but he continued to paint. In 1923, when he was 82, Claude Monet underwent two eye surgeries.

For me, the paintings of his later years, ignited a profound gratitude for this artist. Claude Monet’s love of beauty and nature sustained him through the most difficult of circumstances.

Eventually, my eyes were opened. and I really understood nature. I learned to love at the same time.” Claude Monet.

84 Thoughts

    1. It is wonderful to hear the news that the world is starting to reopen again. Thank you for joining me at the Vancouver Art Gallery, Shehanne. This was the first time that I saw Monet’s paintings completed during the time cataracts impaired his vision. What strength of character he had to continue to paint, to chose creativity over despair (although there must have been difficult moments), to overcome the cataract handicap and believe that he could prevail. This was my greatest takeaway from the exhibition.

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    1. I have always been interested in how our connection to nature inspires the creative spirit. I have discovered that other artists see their gardens as a source of inspiration: Pierre Bonnard, Max Liebermann, Henri Le Sidaner to name a few. Your remarkable art exhibition and 2020 Calendar “As Above So Below” was inspired by nature, flowers, earth and season. https://marinakanavaki.com/category/maraqua/as-above-so-below/. Thank you, Marina, for joining me at the Vancouver Art Gallery and sharing the joy of Claude Monet. Sending many hugs to your side of the word.

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      1. Nature is always an inspiration.
        You are so kind, my dearest Rebecca. Thank you so much!
        It was a pleasure joining you and I look forward to more journeys ahead!
        Many hugs and…
        Happy June! 🌻

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  1. A great painter, without any doubt! I hope that all the exhibits in the world will be open again, and we fulfil our soul with those fascinating arts. Thank you, dear Rebecca, for sharing this extensive moment. 🙏💖

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    1. Thank you, my friend, for joining me at the Vancouver Art Gallery. I am always grateful to be able to take photos of the paintings so that I can review them again long after they leave Vancouver. Isn’t it interesting that the creative spirit is kindled by our connection to nature!

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  2. Dear Rebecca,
    we love Monet’s pictures, especially the late ones. They still appear quite modern.
    We enjoyed Giverny VERY much. Many years ago we visited it several times.
    With love & hugs to our dear friend from the sunny Norfolk sea
    The Fab Four of Cley
    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

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    1. Giverny is unforgettable, isn’t it? I was look at the history of what happened to Giverny after Claude Monet’s passing in 1926. I am grateful to all who were involved in bringing the garden and house back to life. I discovered that I could return to Giverny virtually via the Vimeo Station “Fondation Claude Monet Giverny: https://vimeo.com/539103659 This is the garden in spring. I feel the fresh air through the WIFI!

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    1. I share your love of Claude Monet. To me, he captures the essence of what it feels to be immersed within nature. I admire his ability to become part of nature and to recreate this connection in his painting. When I view his painting it is as if I stepped onto a garden walk.

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      1. You and I know that creating a garden in time consumer and labourious work. I happened up a NPR article that gave an account of the beginnings of Giverny: “With the help of his family and six gardeners, Monet planted, nurtured and composed his garden — a world of flowers made up of yellow, pink and red roses arrayed on the ground and draping over metal arches; patches of bright red geraniums; pale purple lavender; deep purple pansies; irises; impatiens; peonies and more.” https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=128245987

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    1. Thank you for joining me at the Vancouver Art Gallery. Claude Monet’s art continues to inspire and bring joy. And yet, he had doubts like everyone else. He said once that “my lie has been nothing but a failure.” Perhaps what we see in his paintings is our need to find wholeness and acceptance of self.

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  3. How wonderful that Giverny will reopen – it is a magical, beautiful place. I was there in the spring several years ago and the flowers in bloom were gorgeous!

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    1. I agree – Giverny is unforgettable. I have been returning to Giverny virtually through their videos. I was reading Claude Monet’s time line from 1840 when he was born to 1826, the year of his death. Monet brought the world to Giverny. For example in 1894 : November is marked by Cézanne’s visit to Giverny, where Monet arranges a meeting with Geffroy, Rodin and Clémenceau (28th November). Can you imagine the wonderful conversations that took place that day. https://fondation-monet.com/en/claude-monet/chronology/. Thank you for stopping by, Meg. Always enjoy our conversations.

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  4. GREAT news that the gardens at Giverny are reopening. They, and Monet’s paintings, are treasures. Loved your presentation, Rebecca, including the talk of the artist’s late-in-life eyesight challenges. And how nice that that 2017 exhibit came to your neck of the woods!

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    1. I am grateful to art galleries who allow us to take photos of paintings so that we can revisit them at a later time. And I am also grateful to art galleries that have an open access policy that allows art to come to our kitchen tables. When I was researching Claude Monet’s diminishing eyesight, I discovered that he wasn’t the only artist who experienced visual problems. Edgar Degas began to progressively lose his vision in 1870. That is when he decided to take up sculpture and pastels. I understand that using oils was too detailed for his poor vision. Some experts believe that Vincent Van Gogh saw everything in yellow because of a condition called xanthopsia (I have never heard of this condition before). Leonardo da Vinci and Rembrandt were said to have squints. Today, we have the benefit of advances in eye health care, but these artists persevered despite their failing eyesight. And this led me to discover writers that experienced visual problems. Here too there is a long list of well-known writers. I am inspired and humbled by these men and women, Dave. They remind me to have courage and to continue….

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  5. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences. It is interesting that he changed his use of basic colors in his older years, I wonder if it was because his eyesight was failing. And, I did not know about his eye surgery when he was 82. I am continuing to learn. Thank you for posting a couple of his lovely paintings and most of all the photo of him, I think it was taken in his garden, possibly!

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    1. Cataract surgery is a common procedure now, but in the past it was a dangerous operation. How far we have come since Claude Monet’s time. Effects of the cataracts could be seen in his work, as Monet simply painted what he saw. His brush strokes became broader as his vision became blurrier. I have read that cataracts changed how he saw colour. Whites, greens, and blues begin to change shade and disappear, replaced by yellows and purples, as can be seen in the paintings in my video. Then there is the issue of lighting which made it only possible for Monet to paint during optimal lighting hours. I understand that cataracts cause lights to seem especially bright and the glare is frustrating. Even so, Monet persevered and continue to create, a testament to his determination and commitment to painting. So glad that you enjoyed this post!!!

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  6. <3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3<3
    And now that I am writing like a 14 year old I want to say nothing says late Spring, early Summer than some time with Monet..although I am down with his winter works too.

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    1. How very well said! I love when the earth wakes up and gives us the gift of colours. Thank you so much for stopping by – very much appreciated.

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  7. Claude Monet’s name is synonymous with the beauty of flowers. Lovely choice, Rebecca, bringing Monet and Giverny to mind at this time, what with the sad imagery we have all been subjected to this past year. A breath of fresh air in vision and thought, with the rebirth Spring brings, along with awakening memories of the past, in seeing Claude Monet’s creations first hand in Giverny. Thank you dear lady for your thoughtful Presentation!

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    1. I am delighted that you joined me at Vancouver Art Gallery, Jean-Jacques. Gardens evoke the creative spirit for I find myself focused on beauty and timelessness. When I walk with nature, there is no room for angst and uncertainty when there is the excitement of life stirring around me, filling my mind with colours, sounds and fragrances. I am so glad that we can visit Giverny virtually. Here is a video announcing the arrival of the tulips:
      https://vimeo.com/66767495.

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  8. I stand corrected. I thought this was a new exhibition. I actually did visit the Vancouver Art Gallery in 2017 and had an enjoyable time viewing the incredible work of art by this master. I have since visited his house and gardens in Giverny and some of his work in the Musee d´Orsay. I loved your video.

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    1. Darlene – to think that we attended the same exhibition in 2017 gave me goosebumps. We could have passed each other in the corridor. I remember being on the top floor of the Musee d’Orsay. It was a quiet day and I was alone surrounded by the art, when I felt the presence of all of those who had worked to create these masterpieces. I started to cry, realizing that in our busyness of life and work and events, and responsibilities, we simply overlook important moments. We cannot forget to express our creative spirit. And you do that beautifully with Amanda and Leah!

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      1. We certainly could have passed each other at VAG! I was also moved while at Musee d’Orsay. I walked into one room and saw Des glaneuses, (The Gleaners) by Jean-Francois Millet. My first boss, many years ago, had given me a card with that very picture on it. I loved it. And there was the original in front of me. I burst into tears. In fact, I am just writing that chapter of Amanda in France as we speak!

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    1. Robbie – you are a storyteller who envisions the stories of people in paintings, and photography. You take an interest in the lives and narratives of those who you encounter. And those you meet up with in history. It is your gift. Sending hugs!

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    1. Yes – that is exactly the word – softness. I believe that he drew from his past hardships. I read that by the late 1860’s, Monet was painting, but was unable to make a living. At the same time, his family did not support his choice to stay with Camille Doncieux the mother of his young son. Thankfully, his attempted suicide in 1868 did not succeed. So yes, softness that comes from a place of struggle to the redemption of calm is indeed something that comes through Monet’s art. I love his words, “I am following Nature without being able to grasp her…” He was also seeking, learning, discovering.

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    1. I am delighted that you joined me in Giverny and at the Vancouver Art Gallery. I enjoy our conversations very much, Martina. Isn’t is wonderful to be able to meet up virtually. Sending hugs along with my thanks!!!

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      1. Yes, Rebecca, I feel that our virtual conversations are something very special and not at all granted! Thank you very much for them:)
        PS: I have a language question. Would you rather say HOMO SAPIENS or HOMO SEIPIENS? I am sending big hugs also your way!

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      2. I would say HOMO SAPIENS! You reminded me that I still need to read the book, Sapiens. I love my stack of books. I watch while it keep getting higher and higher. Hugs!

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  9. A wonderful post Rebecca.. Monet’s paintings are a reminder of another age where gardens and having time to stop and smell the roses was light years away from out modern frantic pace of life. So pleased that the galleries will reopen soon and we are lucky that technology allows us virtual tours in the meantime.. hugsx♥

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  10. A wonderful artist indeed. So many great artists, both painters and musicians continued to pursue their creative passion despite physical or mental challenges. I’m thinking particularly of Michelangelo who suffered with debilitating arthritis in his hands and of course Beethoven who lost his sense of hearing. Monet, even after his eyesight was impaired, didn’t give up painting his wondrous scenes of nature as he saw it, but probably only now in his mind’s eye. I would love to visit Giverny one day. Thank you for sharing your visit to the Secret Garden exhibition. xxx

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    1. Let’s go to Giverny together, Sylvia – wouldn’t that be wonderful! I have often wondered if creativity allows us to overcome adversity. When I think of Michelangelo – did the beauty of an evolving sculpture take his focus away from the pain in his hands. Beethoven knew he was going deaf, Monet knew he was going blind. How did they quiet their minds and allow their creativity to flow? When I think of my father and your mother, they recognized that age had slowed their steps and yet, they continued to be ever present and joyful. When I viewed Monet’s paintings of browns and purples, I recognized that wherever we are, in whatever circumstances we find ourselves, we must choose to live boldly and creatively. I love our conversations, Sylvia. Sending many hugs!

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      1. That would indeed be an amazing adventure, dear Rebecca. Yes, your mention of overcoming adversity by remaining focused on that which gives us joy, reminded me of the quote attributed to Nietzsche, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” Many hugs coming back to you. 🤗🤗🤗🤗😘

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  11. Fabulous post Rebecca! I adore his work.
    I’m happy to hear that The Gardens at Giverny will reopen.
    The Gardens at Giverny were closed due to Covid……. This is one of the examples of why we must stay vigilant in protecting ourselves and others.
    Covid knows no bounds. What will it close next? In its eagerness to go back to life the way it was, humanity might end up finding the garden closed again!

    Anyway! I sent you a mail with a drawing of R. Budd – Art Director! I’ll touch it up tonight… fill in the hair a bit more and a few other things! I quite like it! {{hugs}}

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    1. Oh Resa – I just read your e-mail. I am so very EXCITED by your ability to capture exactly how I want to look. Your creativity flows. The palazzo pants have always been a favouite fashion statement. Covid19 is a reminder that we must be ever vigilant in how we engage and share our world. Progress is being made, but I agree with you, we must stay the course. I remember Frances teaching me how to sew. She said: It is faster to go slow than to go fast and undo mistakes that happened when you went fast. Does that make sense? I remember all those times when I had to undo the stitches made in haste. Yikes! Sending hugs along with my thanks!

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      1. Woot!
        Frances is wise and right. OMG.. undoing sewing mistakes is arduous.

        Pass this onto Frances… you will enjoy this, too!
        I was about 20, and had not gone to Fashion Design & Technology school, yet. I was a self taught sewer. I had an old Singer straight stitcher (no backstitch…nothing) I decided to make myself a cowboy shirt, with roses embroidered on the triple dip yoke.
        The shirt was coming along nicely. It was time to set the sleeves. I was going to make the supreme effort to make sure the sleeve was eased in beautifully, NO mini tucks, or ripples.
        I did 3 rows of gathers, and basted it into the armhole, but the darn crown of the sleeve would not ease in smoothly.
        I ended up using straight pins. Eventually, it was perfect.
        Mind you, I had a wall… a fan of pins. There was no space between the pins. I walked the needle one stitch at a time. I removed one pin at a time.
        It seemed a lifetime getting around the armhole, but I DID IT!
        I decided that sleeve was never coming out of that armhole!!! So, as there was no zig-zag, I straight stitched around and around and around the seam allowance. It was a solid wall of stitches.
        I was so pleased with myself… not a pucker in sight!
        I turned the shirt to its right side to view my perfectly set in sleeve.
        AARRRGGGHHH I had sewn it into the neck hole.
        Took a week to pick the darn thing out!!!!

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      2. I love this story for it reminds me of all those days that Frances, Sarah and I would make dresses and skirts. I hear the sound of the sewing machine in my mind and I recall those days. And the coffee, tea great conversations that went along with the scattered material, needles and threads. I am going to send your an e-mail Resa – sewing, designing is an excellent podcast. How many people sew this days? How to pick a pattern. How to make a pattern. Sending many hugs!

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      3. Sounds good! Not many people sew anymore. In a factory, a person works at one machine doing one piece of the assembly. It’s really a machine operator.
        When I was really young, I worked at a sportswear factory in Winnipeg! HUGS!

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  12. A wonderful tribute to a great painter Rebecca..The paintings of Monet have that gift of transporting viewers to another world a world of peace and serenity it was lovely to read about parts of his life I didn’t know and amazing that given his cataracts how he continued to paint …a true master of his art…:)

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    1. Thank you so much for stopping by and for your comments. I just discovered that Eugene Boudin was the mentor to Claude Monet – the artist who inspired him. I understand that Boudin urged his young friend, Claude Monet to join him at the seaside – to paint in the open air. Monet was 15 years younger. That moment marked the beginnings of Impressionism. It is a reminder that we need to encourage each other – creativity blossoms when there is compassion.

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      1. The master of the sky and pastels is one of my favourite mediums…Monet couldn’t have had a better mentor 🙂 Absolutely Rebecca we should remember to encourage each other 🙂 x Have a great weekend 🙂

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  13. Rebecca, when you and Marina include quotes by artists, they help explain their creative passion and process. Monet’s quote about understanding nature and love at the same time is quite profound!

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    1. I agree, Mary Jo. The idea of deep connection to colour, flowers, nature reminds me of Georgia O’Keefe’s words, “I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for.” Whether I will ever understand this connection to colour does not matter. What I recognize is that artists see words and thoughts with colours. I am amazed and am inspired to look deeper.

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    1. I believe that gardens ignite our artistic endeavours, Paul. While it may seem a bit far-fetched, I think that even though we pass on to a new journey, what remains is the creative spirit that lingers in places where beauty was formed. When I walked the paths of Giverny, I felt Claude Monet’s love flow through the plants and trees. The trees remembered, the plants remembered Monet’s care for this Giverny. Perhaps, we hear the voices of the trees and plants telling his story.

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  14. An exquisite video, Rebecca.

    As I’ve mentioned, Claude Monet is possibly my most favourite artist. If ever I have the opportunity to re-visit France I will certainly (if it’s available) visit Giverny and the memories of its nature loving artist.

    To remind myself of his delicate touch I have some very small prints, here and there, and a larger print framed in a bedroom. What a valued existence he had. His works always to remind us of the more sensitive aspects of life. A life well lived.
    xoxoxo

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    1. One day we will meet in Giverny and feel the creative spirit of Claude Monet. One of my favouite “Monet thoughts” is “Eventually, my eyes were opened, and I really understood nature. I learned to love at the same time.” I agree wholeheartedly, Carolyn – a life well lived.

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