I invite you to click onto the photos and drawings to see the detail.
Exactly one year ago, last October, I visited Claude Monet’s house and garden at Giverny. It was the end of October so the garden was only open to the public for one or two more days before its winter hibernation. Hard to believe that it would soon be closed as the flower beds in front of the house were still riotous with colour. I wrote in my journal, “I found the garden too much – like a feast of overly-rich food. I probably got my best pictures outside the garden [in the village] because I could isolate elements and concentrate on them. Inside the garden I just didn’t know which way to turn because it was a firework display of flowers all going off at once.”
Two drawings from that trip are of a small cat who trotted up to see me. I was photographing rose bushes in Giverny, not far from le jardin de Claude Monet. After she greeted me, she stopped on the corner to observe her surroundings. Then she disappeared into the café just beside us. “The Welcoming Cat” and “Interlude” are now framed and hanging on the walls at home, reminding me of Giverny in autumn.
In April this year I revisited le jardin de Claude Monet. Having been there just before it closed for winter, I was back at the beginning of spring as it reopened. This time I had Matthew with me and it was the first really warm and sunny day of the season. We went to the corner café for coffee and cake. I asked the owner about the little cat. In my journal I wrote, “The man at the café said yes, it is their cat and the cat at the moment is somewhere.” I thought this was a good description of the cat’s whereabouts. Anyone who knows cats understands about ‘somewhere’ ie anywhere; for cats are independent individuals who go where they wish.
Our guide, the debonair Oliver, told us that Monet chose Normandy over all the places he could live (for by the time he bought the property he was rich). He required an area with soft light, the sort in which rain falls every second day. Oliver followed up by saying that more alcohol is consumed in Normandy than in any other region in the world due to that same miserably consistent rain which Monet wanted for his art!
I have also been to the garden in mid summer (in 2005) when the water lilies are abundant. At that time of year tourists are also abundant! In late autumn and early spring the water lilies weren’t flowering but to compensate, there were hardly any visitors. In both October and April one could contemplate in peace.
On the way back to Australia I managed to get my Monet water lily image – in Singapore of all places – down at Marina Bay Sands. I took this photo about 36 hours after being in Giverny. I think the spirit of Monet’s garden was still in my eye. I am considering making a drawing from this photo. Maybe one day.
Afterword: speaking of cats, you might like to see this view below. This is a scene right here in front of me now. I have my draft up on the computer screen and my journals (from which I quoted) laid out on the desk. My cat, Saphie, would like my attention so she has plonked herself centre stage. For the moment, this is Saphie’s somewhere.
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