Ever since I studied art history in high school, I’ve been in love with the painters known as The Impressionists.
Cezanne, Degas, Manet, Monet, Pissarro, Renoir and Sisley were a few of the artists who came together in the 1860s in Paris (of course!) and founded this dreamy style of painters.
Two women, Mary Cassatt and Berthe Morisot, were also important Impressionists.
Museums in the 60s and 70s weren’t very crowded. I could gaze at Monet’s Waterlilies at the Museum of Modern Art or his rosy House of Parliament at the Brooklyn Museum for hours. Back then, I rarely ran into more than a few dozen other museum goers. (Now, the crowds are eight deep in the newly refurbished MOMA gallery where Monet’s water lilies hang.)
While Monet's magnificent haystacks, Morisot’s portraits of pensive young women and Degas' graceful ballerinas are now regarded as beloved masterpieces, when they were first exhibited in the 19th century they were ridiculed and despised.
Painting outdoors instead of in a studio, portraying the ephemeral effect of light on a subject and leaving brushstrokes visible on a finished canvas were considered revolutionary! While some artists only dabbled in the style before moving on, others, like Monet, were hard-core proponents of Impressionism.
After sowing his wild oats in Paris and other European cities, Monet settled down in a house on two acres of land in the French town of Giverny.
For the next forty or so years, he spent his days gardening, sipping aperitifs with other French artists and painting.
His canvases were a visual diary of his life in the pink stucco cottage, colorful gardens, Japanese water lily pond and the surrounding Normandy countryside.
The first time I visited Giverny in 1983, I was in my twenties. We arrived early on a misty morning and the place was awe-inspiring.
I took a few slides of the gardens, which were in the process of being restored, then headed for the water-lily pond.
I slipped my watercolor set out of my purse, used my telescoping cup to scoop a little of water out of the pond and .... painted a picture of the Japanese bridge. It was an unforgettable moment.
Although I still love to paint, it's a good thing I chose writing, not art, as my career!
On our recent trip… we arrived on a sunny day. The gardens were gorgeous but they felt less intimate with hundreds of other tourists wandering around.
Instead of a watercolor set and a film camera, I had my super duper digital Nikon in my straw tote. I must have looked like a serious photographer because numerous families asked me (in a variety of languages) to take a family photo for them on their camera.
During the years Monet lived at Giverny, the village was also home to more than 100 American artists lured by the great scenery and the chance to meet one of the leading Impressionists. It is said that he considered their presence a nuisance.
Works by these artists, however, are exhibited down the road from Monet’s property at Musee d’Art Americain Giverny. Not to be outdone by Monet's gorgeous gardens, the Musee is surrounded by a dozen single color plantings along a wide pathway. Very impressive.
*** BLOG DU JOUR***
Today, in honor of the fabulous quiche that I ate on the terrace at the Musee’s Terra Café, the Blog Du Jour is dedicated to French food. It’s Mon Petite Biscuit Cuit.
The memorable quiche had a five-inch high silky mousse-like filling studded with tiny chunks of flavorful just-picked string beans, red pepper, zucchini and potatoes. The butter-rich crust was equally noteworthy!
The problem with most web sites and blogs about French cooking is that they are in French. Mon Dieu! It’s a rare recipe that looks luscious enough to make me get out my dictionary or convert weights and measures. Mon Petite Biscuit Cuit however, is in both English and French. Bon Appetite!