Lasting Impressions of Giverny

Monet's work was inspired by poppy fields and other aspects of the lush terrain around Giverny.
Monet's work was inspired by poppy fields and other aspects of the lush terrain around Giverny. (Claude Monet / © Reproduction, The Art Institute Of Chicago)
Sunday, March 18, 2007

WHAT: "Impressionist Giverny: A Colony of Artists, 1885-1915" at the Musee d'Art Americain in Giverny, France.

WHEN: April 1- July 1

HOW MUCH: About $7

WHY GO: For American and European impressionists in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, no place was hotter than Giverny.

In 1883, the great French painter Claude Monet moved to Giverny, about 50 miles west of Paris, where he occupied a sprawling farmhouse and developed the elaborate gardens that became the subject of some of his most famous paintings.

Word spread among the artistic community about Monet's move to Giverny, and soon a flock of artists followed to seek his advice and, they hoped, develop their own masterpieces off this lush terrain. Many eventually settled in the small village.

The exhibit comprises almost 100 paintings by such artists as Theodore Robinson, John Leslie Breck, Frederick Carl Frieseke and Pierre Bonnard. It's broken down into four sections: landscapes around Giverny, village life, family and friends, and Giverny motifs.

After its three-month run, the exhibit moves to the San Diego Museum of Art from July 22 to Oct. 1.

DON'T MISS . . . Theodore Robinson's 1887 "Valley of the Seine," which illustrates the artists' interest in plein air painting, with attention to atmospheric effects through the use of a brighter palette, a lighter brushstroke and a less finished look.

Louis Paul Dessar's "Peasant Woman and Haystacks" (1892) shows the impact of village life on the artists and their fascination with the daily activities of peasants. "Lili Butler Reading at the Butler House," a 1908 work by Theodore Butler, represents a period when the artists turned their attention away from the countryside to focus on their own family members and friends. Richard E. Miller's "The Pool" (1910) depicts the colony's increased interest in painting female figures in outdoor settings, a phase that came about in its final years.

EXTRAS: The museum celebrates its 15th anniversary on June 10 with music in the gardens, tours of "Impressionist Giverny" and guided walks through several historic gardens. . . . The "Claude Monet House and Gardens" (84 Rue Claude Monet, 011-33-232-51-28-21, http://www.fondation-monet.com/), where Monet lived from 1883 to 1926, features the gardens that he depicted, as well as the famous Japanese bridge. Admission is about $7. . . . Surprisingly, you won't find any original Monet works in the artist's home, but the Musee Marmottan Monet in Paris (2 Rue Louis-Boilly, 011-33-144-96-50-33, http://www.marmottan.com/) holds the world's largest collection of his work. Admission is about $10.50.

EATS: Restaurant Hotel Baudy (81 Rue Claude Monet) is a legendary spot in Giverny where the impressionists, including Monet, gathered. The restaurant, which has two dining rooms and a shaded terrace with a village view, is open from March 31 to Oct. 31. The restaurant's Camembert pancake with tomato puree is about $10, and the omelette Baudy, with duck and sauteed potatoes, runs about $17.50.

At Les Jardins de Giverny (1 Rue du Milieu), plates are brought to the table under a heavy silver bell that keeps them warm. For $45, the restaurant offers a fixed-price menu that includes such choices as foie gras, seasonal mushrooms, lamb chops and French pastries.

SLEEPS: Because Giverny is so small, the town has only one true hotel, the 11-room Hotel La Musardiere (123 Rue Claude Monet, 011-33-232-21-03-18), which is just steps away from the museum. Built in 1880, the rustic hotel houses two dining rooms and features prices ranging from about $80 for a single bedroom to $150 for a bedroom for five.

On a smaller scale, Le Trou Normand (1 Rue Messire Jean Coulbeaux, 011-33-232-51-27-68) offers country lodging in an 18th-century cottage. Located in the residential side of the village, the house has two choices: upper lodging and garden lodging, both with fully equipped kitchens for about $100 a night. Les Coquelicots (69 Rue Claude Monet, 011-33-232-21-17-88), a 19th-century home restored in 2004, sits in the heart of the village. The house, with its own garden, is child-friendly and costs $450 to $650 for a week, depending on the season (be aware that the property is heavily booked through July).

For more information on these places and bed-and-breakfast options in town, visit http://www.giverny.fr/.

INFO: The Musee d'Art Americain (011-33-232-51-94-65, http://www.maag.org/) is at 99 Rue Claude Monet.

-- John Maynard

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