Do you believe in love at first sight? As he sat one day on a train halfway between Paris and Rouen, Claude Monet glimpsed the passing countryside of a small village through his carriage window. Tired of his usual motifs as well as his Impressionist companions, the sight renewed Monet like a fresh spring shower. Driven by his vision, Monet rented a house in the pastoral tiny town. The year was 1883. The village was Giverny.
Joining him in what charitably would be called an unconventional household were his two young sons, left motherless when Monet’s wife, Camille, died four years earlier, and Alice, wife of Ernest Hoschede, Monet’s patron, together with their six children. M. Hoschede, a Paris businessman trying to rebuild his fortune after a major recession, spent most of his time away.
By the time Monet died in Giverny some forty years later, this tiny village in the bend of the Epte River, undisturbed for centuries except by the occasional warring duchies coveting its land and vineyards, became synonymous not only with Monet’s name, but his images as well. In a sense, he created it. He bought the house he was renting, married Mme. Hoschede after Ernest’s death, and changed the landscape forever when he diverted part of the Epte River to build two water gardens. Water lilies became his motif and Giverny a tourist stop.
Life, as it turns out, is short. On the other hand, the evanescent, ungraspable spring remains eternal.