Beyond Giverny - The Gardens of Caillebotte, Bonnard and Renoir
Gardens have provided immeasurable inspiration to a list of prominent artists beyond what are perhaps the most famous, the gardens of Claude Monet in Giverny. Among the French artists of the time, three who delighted in creating and painting gardens of their own were Gustave Caillebotte, Pierre Bonnard and Pierre-Auguste Renoir.
Gustave Caillebotte (1848 - 1894)
He combined his interest in painting with passions for sailing and gardening. In 1881 Caillebotte and his brothers bought a house in Petit Gennevilliers, across the Seine from Argenteuil where Monet had lived. There they built a large greenhouse and extensive gardens. He shared his passion for flowers with Monet, comparing notes on irrigation practices and plants.
Caillebotte collected Monet's paintings as well as those of other Impressionists. His reputation as a painter may have been overshadowed during his lifetime by his reputation as a patron of the arts. He died at the young age of 45. Monet wrote about his friend, "If he had lived instead of dying prematurely, he would have enjoyed the same upturn in fortunes as we did, for he was full of talent. He was as gifted as he was conscientious and when we lost him he was still at the beginning of his career."
The Garden at Petit Gennevilliers in Winter 1894 White and Yellow Chrysanthemums 1893
The site of his gardens became slowly industrialized and was later destroyed by bombs in World War II. He bequeathed his large collection of artwork (including paintings by Monet, Renoir, Sisley, Pissarro, Degas, Cézanne and Manet) to the French government.
Pierre Bonnard (1867 - 1947)
In 1910, Bonnard rented a house on stilts with a view of the river Seine, in Vernonnet, about three miles from Monet's home in Giverny. He later bought the house naming it "Ma Roulotte"—My Gypsy Caravan. He became a close friend to Monet while living there. Bonnard's gardens were what he called his "jardins sauvage" or wild gardens, more overgrown and freer than the gardens of his friend in Giverny. He often framed his paintings of the overgrown gardens of wildflowers and trees from the balcony at the front of his house.
Later in life, after making many visits to the area, Bonnard moved to the French Riviera, buying a small house above Le Cannet with a view of the bay and planted with orange trees and mimosas. He christened it "Le Bosquet"—The Grove. He finished his last painting, The Almond Tree in Blossom (1947), a week before his death in his cottage there.
Monet Painting in His Garden Argenteuil The Artist's House
Although Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Claude Monet were lifelong friends and fellow painters, their visions for the gardens that were to inspire their paintings were very different. Renoir purchased property later in his life on the Côte d'Azur. Les Collettes at Cagnes-sur-Mer was already in existence when Renoir bought it in 1907 in order to save the hillside groves of towering olive, pine and eucalyptus trees from destruction by development. Renoir preferred to allow a wilder, freer and less managed garden than Monet, whose orchestrated gardens required great supervision.
Renoir painted the twisted olive trunks which he allowed to grow wild without practicing the more traditional severe pruning. The landscape was planted with groupings of single flower selections—massive plots of blue iris and pink or red pelargoniums. Aline Renoir, the artist's wife, maintained a more formal garden of old roses and orange trees. Renoir was particularly fond of roses. It is written that he felt the roses helped him to capture skin tones of women and children in his paintings. This was the only formal garden allowed on the property. During this late period of Renoir's life, he had received much acclaim, but lived quietly on his farm painting the Mediterranean light through the olive branches.
Renoir's property is now preserved as a museum open to the public. The remaining olive trees are estimated to be over 1,000 years old. Musée Renoir, chemin des Collettes, 06800, Cagnes-sur-Mer.
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