Arts Everyday Living: Inside Monet—The Artist’s Sunflower Garden

Claude Monet, Artist’s Garden at Vetheuil, 1881, oil on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.


Title: The Artist’s Garden at Vetheuil

Who: French Impressionist Claude Monet (1840-1926)

When: Summer, 1881. Monet was almost 40 years old and had been working as artist since his teens.

Where: Vetheuil, a village about 38 miles from Paris, Monet had moved there in 1878. His wife and muse Camille had died in September, 1879. 

What: Garden that led from the house, down to the Seine River. Widower Monet  was sharing the dwelling with friends Ernest and Alice Hoschede, their 6 children plus his 2 children. Although Monet had lived in many places, he was still a renter.

In 1883 Monet would move to a farmhouse in Giverny, some 10 miles away, which he would purchase 7 years later and transform into a paradise of flowers and waterlilies.

How: Impressionist style, characterized by a vibrant spectrum of colors, shimmering light and individual brushstrokes. Shades of blue are everywhere, from the sky to the shadows along the path to the impressive vases.  Greens too evident in the grass, leaves, and plants; pink, white, red, and of course the yellow of the giant sunflowers!

Why: Perhaps Monet’s emotional response to the beauty of a perfect day, filled with sunshine and the presence of his family. The child closest to us, accompanied by a toy wagon, has been identified as one of Monet’s sons.  Yet, who are the mysterious figures behind him–a toddler and a woman with a broom–almost hidden from our view?  


Next: Remembering Camille.




In the public domain. Courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

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