I’m a big fan of Claude Monet. I’m not sure I’d call him my favorite, because he’d be competing with Vincent VanGogh, but these two are probably tied for first. VanGogh is Dutch and has a museum in Amsterdam that showcases his work. Monet is French; his works are displayed in various places in Paris. His home, studio and famous gardens are in nearby Giverny.
A trip to Paris would not be complete without a look at works by Claude Monet. If you are a Monet fan, your first stop should be the Orangerie. The building, originally a greenhouse for orange trees, it was redesigned as an art museum with input from Monet. The centerpieces of the museum are eight of his famous water lily paintings, but there is also a nice collection of works by his contemporaries – Cézanne, Matisse, Renoir and more.
Monet donated the water lily paintings as a celebration of the end of World War I, although they were not installed until after his death.The paintings are about eight feet tall and range from twenty to thirty feet long. If you view the works up close, you will see strokes of many colors, but as you step back, the images of water lilies begin to appear.
The Orsay Museum, or Musée d’Orsay, houses paintings by Monet and his Impressionist contemporaries. Located on the banks of the Seine River, the museum is housed in what was originally a train station. It was a small station and eventually the new, longer trains outgrew it. The museum opened in 1986 and primarily includes works from the middle of the 19th century into the beginning of the 20th century.
The Orsay Museum has over 80 works by Monet in its permanent collection. Among them are some of my favorites – The Saint-Lazare Station, the Rouen Cathedral – which Monet painted several times – and Blue Water Lilies.
The largest collection of Monet’s works, however, is located in the lesser-known Musée Marmotten Monet. This museum, located in a residential part of the sixteenth arrondissement, houses over 300 of the master’s paintings and also works by Manet, Degas, Renoir, and Morisot.
The first time I visited the Marmotten, I almost left disappointed. The entrance leads to a collection of period furniture and an assortment of works by various artists, most of which I found unimpressive. The building was home to the Marmottens, so their personal household items are displayed. There is a side hallway, however, which leads the visitors to the treasured collection. The lower level contains the gallery of Monet’s works, the most notable is Impression, Sunrise, from which the artistic movement got its name.
The final stop – or maybe it should be the first stop – is Monet’s home in Giverny. About an hour north of Paris by train and bus, the home and gardens of the great painter have been restored to look as they did when Monet lived there.
The house can be crowded, depending on the time of day. If there is a line at the house, walk through the gardens first.
There is a large garden in the front of the house, but to get to the most famous garden, you will have to follow the path to go through the tunnel under the road. There is a walk around the entire pond – the pond filled with water lilies. A Japanese-style bridge crosses a stream at one end of the pond. It is easy to see why Monet was inspired here.
Visiting Paris and Giverny will help viewers understand the master painter. Fans of Monet will not be disappointed by the large quantity and variety of the works available to view. I’ve been to Giverny twice, but can’t wait to go back.
(On the Paris tour, we visit the Orangerie, the Orsay Museum and the Marmotten, with an optional tour to Giverny).