3 years ago I was in NYC with a good friend of mine. He happened to be a big fan of art, and me, well, not so much. It’s not that I didn’t want to love art. It’s just that I knew so little about it, it was hard for me to understand what I was suppose to love about it. As an avid photographer, there was one one art style that appealed to me, and painting was not it. We had gone to MOMA (Museum of Modern Art), and it was the third day we were in the city. My feet were aching from all the walking and standing (such is NYC), and I just wanted to sit down. ANYWHERE. Go my eyes skipped the area and scanned the room for a bench. And I found one. Blue. Leather. Looked comfortable enough. So I ran towards it and sat down. About 2 minutes after sitting (the point where the ache in my feet started to subside) I realized that I was the only one facing my direction. Everyone else was seated and looking the other way. So, putting my better judgement aside, I stood back up so I cool turn around and see what it was everyone else was seeing. And there it was. Monet’s Waterlilies. Or at least one of them. The painting spanned the entire room. It was blue and green and purple. You could feel the wind swaying through the trees by looking at it, and if I closed my eyes I was pretty sure I could feel the breeze myself (maybe it was just the AC in the museum? It was June after all). And there was no doubt in my mind, in that exact moment, I had seen few things more beautiful than this. And that was the day I fell in love with Monet.
Planning a trip to Europe for a group of 30 is not easy. There are a lot of moving parts – and vehicles. And when I got the bus booked, and the hotel arranged, and the tour guides confirmed and looked back at the schedule, I realized that on September 1, in our private bus, on the drive to Paris we would happen to drive right past Monet’s Garden. His home. With the pond, and the flowers, and the real live waterlilies. So I didn’t hesitate to add it to the itinerary. While I hoped the students would be as excited as I was – this little stop was for me.
As I walked around the ponds and along the streams and over the bridges I told myself that if I was a billionaire – I would buy this place, and keep it all to myself. I could imagine how beautiful it must have been for Monet – how the colours and light and smells and sounds must have been. It was a slice of heaven. The waterlily pond was the main draw, but the gardens and the house itself were equally impressive. In fact, many of our students didn’t realize there was “more” around the bend – and took a while to find the other half of the property. Monet’s home was filled paintings of his own, and Japanese art that he loved. His bright yellow dining room, and beautiful blue kitchen were reflective of the bright colours he loved – the same thing I find myself drawn to in my photography. My camera was my canvas, and I painted with light for as long as our stop allowed.
Later in Monet’s life he was starting to go blind. His waterlily paintings reflect that experience – showing the light and colour, without the sharpness or details – given the he was losing those abilities. It is wonderful that Monet never let it stop him. He continued to love his art, and find a way to make his art, regardless of what life had dealt him. There is a beautiful lesson in that.
No photo I could take could truly do it justice. So here they are – the meager photos, of a beautiful garden, that inspired one of the greatest painters. Including one that attempted to see the world as Monet did – a little blurry and full of colour and beauty.
For more information on Monet’s Garden, history or visiting, see here