Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Monet's Priceless Blooms; the Master's Water Lilies May Be out of Reach of Our Wallets, but the Source of His Inspiration Is a Mere Train Ride Away

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Monet's Priceless Blooms; the Master's Water Lilies May Be out of Reach of Our Wallets, but the Source of His Inspiration Is a Mere Train Ride Away

Article excerpt

Byline: JANE CHARTERIS

ON the early July day when I visited Claude Monet's garden in Giverny, only 13 and a half of the famous water lilies were in bloom. Given what one of his paintings of them fetched at auction last month, that made them, at roughly a million quid each, briefly the most expensive flowers in the world. Even Van Gogh's sunflowers would be worth less. And where have they all gone, anyway? Harvested, every one of them, and new ones sown.

Monet's water garden is still an intimate, personal place. As you lean on a balustrade staring at the roses, willows, wisteria and lilies that he planted, and at their reflections in the pond, there is a direct connection to the painter. You are looking at exactly what he looked at, even if he saw it differently. Try as I might, with narrowed eyes, I couldn't achieve that out-of-focus Impressionistic vision. It crossed my mind that a return visit after a generous French lunch might help, when a sudden shower spattered the surface, breaking up the reflections, blurring colours and shapes.

Life was imitating art, and I was looking at a Water Lilies canvas.

Indeed, I was in it, along with some of the 500,000 other visitors who traipse through in the seven months of the year it is open. That is not the ordeal it sounds (though best to go early or late in the day). There is little reason to go to Giverny but for Monet and other painterly connections, so those who do share a respect, even reverence for the surroundings. It is a far more peaceful experience than is had, for instance, in the noisy, odoriferous hell that is the Sistine Chapel on a hot summer's day.

Even so, the crowds are such that painters and photographers are hard pushed to capture the true Monet look. Serious practitioners of both arts can apply in writing (Fondation Claude Monet, 27620 Giverny, France) well in advance - months - for an entrance permit on a Monday, when it is closed to the public. …

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