After seeing countless renditions of Monet’s water lilies on museum walls, we finally laid our eyes on the real thing.
Pink and white water lilies, perched on bright green pads, decorated the surface of the pond in Monet’s garden in Giverny, France. The artist captured them on canvas while floating on the water, his studio a small wooden boat. The pond and its floral finery are the centerpiece of the tangled, once-tranquil garden that inspired Monet for more than forty years until his death in 1926.
Our first visit to the artist’s place was several years ago in early April just after it opened for the season. There were no water lilies in bloom then and about a quarter of the crowd. This time, in summer, even shortly after opening, throngs of admirers clogged the pathway circling the pond and the Japanese-inspired foot bridge spanning it.
“My garden is my most beautiful masterpiece,” Monet claimed.
Of course, water lilies are just one of the features of Monet’s botanic masterpiece. Elsewhere in the garden, tulips, irises, poppies, and other flora he painted are on display at various times throughout the year. And in front of the artist’s picturesque, green-and-pink abode—which can be toured—row after row of abundant wildflowers flank rose-draped arbors.
But the water lilies are the star attraction. Although picturesque, the garden seemed like it was missing a vital element in early spring when they hid their charms. It’s worth enduring the peak-season crowds to see them. After all, they’re quite possibly the most famous flowers in the world.