Personal Journeys

PERSONAL JOURNEYS

March 09, 2003|By Special to the Sun

A Memorable Place

Artist's vision of Monet's inspirations

By Ginda Simpson

SPECIAL TO THE SUN

On a recent visit to France, I had the opportunity to visit Giverny, a rural village about 30 miles northwest of Paris. It is where Claude Monet had his home and studio, and where he immortalized his gardens in paintings.

The 19th-century farmhouse was unpretentious when Monet rented it in 1883. Its barns became his studio, looking out onto a kitchen garden and a flowering orchard. Beyond the road, poplars border a rippling stream, and a half-mile away is the winding River Seine, bordered on each side by wooded hills. The original little orchard was the beginning of a gardening endeavor that lasted 40 years.

During the decades after Monet's death in 1926, his house and gardens gradually fell into neglect. Upon the death in 1966 of Monet's second son and heir, Michel Monet, the entire family property was bequeathed to the Academie des Beaux-Arts. A costly restoration of the artist's house, gardens and studios took four years to complete, and in 1980 the Claude Monet Museum opened.

The gardens attract many visitors, art lovers and garden enthusiasts. The Clos Normand is a provincial village flower garden and lies in front of the house. I wandered along the paths bordered on both sides by an endless profusion of color: petunias, zinnias, fuchsias, sweet peas, geraniums, day lilies, roses and morning glories. All these were planted by the artist, then immortalized on canvas.

It is no wonder that in these gardens and the surrounding countryside Monet found nearly all the inspiration he needed to fill four decades of work.

The second garden is a secluded retreat into the world of Monet's famed waterlilies. A footbridge is covered with mauve and white wisteria, and flowering Japanese trees, bamboo and other plants reflect Monet's interest in Japan. It was here, in the ever-changing light of Giverny, that the artist eternalized his vision of the lily ponds by creating 19 mural-size panels, a series known as Decoration des Nympheas, which he presented to the state in 1922.

The paintings represent the most profound expression of Monet's vision, and are the culmination of his life's work. He continued work on these until his death.

On a bench at the edge of the pond where Monet sat for hours, I, too, sat a century later, dreaming in this tranquil world of soft pink, pale yellow and pearly white waterlilies. Here I not only beheld beautiful flowers and shimmering reflections, but, as an artist, I also saw shapes and shadows, lights and darks, cools and warms.

Dare I paint my vision of Monet's gardens? Perhaps Monet asked himself that same question.

Ginda Simpson lives in Perugia, Italy.

My Best Shot

Ruth Crystal, Baltimore

Day at the beach in South Africa

My husband, David, and I spent 2 1/2 weeks in South Africa last fall on a tour called "From Apartheid to Democracy, the New South Africa." After an emotionally draining 10 days of speaking to government leaders and visiting townships and liberation sights, we got to the Cape of Good Hope and visited Penguin Beach. It was wonderful to watch the penguins frolic in their natural state on a beach where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Indian Ocean.

Readers Recommend

Cozumel, Mexico

Jeanne Smith, Crownsville

Viewing this beautiful sunset in Cozumel -- and an equally beautiful sunrise on the Chesapeake Bay -- are some of the many splendid moments to be had on Celebrity's "Galaxy" cruises to the Caribbean from Baltimore. The service, food and entertainment were equally enjoyable and made the perfect vacation.

Arlington National Cemetery, Va.

Claire Albert, Columbia

It was a beautiful fall morning when I walked through Ar-lington National Cemetery. The combination of the seasonal colors and the order and symmetry of the headstones seemed to enhance the peace and quiet of the moment. I was reminded of the debt owed to those buried here.

Let Us Hear From You

We want to know about your travels, your experiences, your pictures. Here's how to participate in this page:

* My Best Shot -- Send us a terrific travel photo with a description of when and where you took it. (Cash value: $50.)

* A Memorable Place -- In 500 words or less, tell us about a travel experience that changed you, about the nostalgia a certain place evokes, about the power of a favorite beach, the mountains, a city cafe. (Cash value: $150.)

* Readers Recommend -- Briefly tell us about places you've recently visited that you'd recommend to other readers. (50 words or less; photos are welcome.)

Because of the volume of responses, photos and manuscripts cannot be individually acknowledged or returned. Submissions from all categories may be used for Readers Recommend, and upon submission become the property of The Sun.

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