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Beyond Giverny - The Gardens of Caillebotte, Bonnard and Renoir

Beyond Giverny

The Gardens of

Caillebotte, Bonnard and Renoir

impressionist oil painting of roses in a garden by Caill;ebotte
Roses in the Garden at Petit Gennevilliers           1856          Gustave Caillebotte

   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.

   The opening up of trade and travel in the late 1800s brought a surge of new plant species to Europe from around the world. Advances in hybridization and production led to availability of a greater variety of flowers at prices affordable to the individual gardener, not just larger public gardens. Iris and chrysanthemums were exotic new species to the European garden. Garden styles were becoming more naturalistic, steering away from the tight Victorian styles.

   For some, the ability to manipulate nature by creating gardens for subjects of their paintings may have been a response to the turbulence of the times. As World War I approached, Monet, immersed himself in the sanctuary of his gardens and studio. Weeping willows were planted to mourn the dead. He wrote, "Yesterday I resumed work. It's the best way to avoid thinking of these sad times. All the same, I feel ashamed to think about my little researches into form and colour while so many people are suffering and dying for us."


photo of Le Petit Gennevilliers 1891
Photo of Le Petit Gennevilliers 1893

Gustave Caillebotte (1848 - 1894)

   Unlike the restored gardens of Monet, sadly, nothing of the gardens of Gustave Caillebotte remains today. Caillebotte inherited a substantial fortune from his family at the age of 26. Before studying art, he earned a law degree and was drafted to serve in the Franco-Prussian war in the Garde Nationale Mobile de la Seine. After the war, he began studying painting seriously, showing paintings in the second Impressionist exhibition in 1876.

impressionist oil painting of dahlias in a garden by Caillebotte   impressionist oil painting of chrysanthemums in a garden by Caillebotte
            Dahlia Garden 1893                    Chrysanthemums at Petit Gennevilliers 1893

   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.

impressionist oil painting of a garden by Caillebotte
The Garden                                                                                                                     1878

   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."

impressionist oil painting of a garden by Caillebotte    impressionist oil painting of chrysanthemums in a garden by Caillebotte

                   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.


impressionist oil painting of a garden in winter by Bonnard
The Garden Under the Snow at Sunset          Bonnard                1910

Pierre Bonnard (1867 - 1947)

   Another artist who traded planting ideas and garden plans with Monet was his friend, Pierre Bonnard. Bonnard was the son of a prominent official of the French Ministry of War. He studied law and briefly practiced as a barrister in his youth. Bonnard had also studied art at the École des Beaux-Arts and Académie Julian in Paris. He is considered a late practitioner of Impressionism and a founding member of Post-Impressionism. He became a member of a group of more avant-garde painters called Les Nabis, creating symbolic and spiritual works of art. Bonnard also created theater set designs and book illustrations.

impressionist oil painting of a garden by Bonnard
Decor at Vernonnet

   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.

impressionist oil painting of an almond tree in a garden by Bonnard    impressionist oil painting of a garden by Bonnard
The Almond Tree in Blossom                                The Garden at Midday     1943

impressionist oil painting of a garden by Bonnard
View from the Artist's Studio at Le Cannet                                        1945

impressionist oil painting of a garden by Bonnard
Fontenay aux Roses Le Cannet                                                       1935

   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.



Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841 - 1919)

   As a young boy, Renoir worked in a porcelain factory creating designs on fine china. Upon moving to Paris to study art in 1862, he met and became friends with Frederic Bazille, Claude Monet and several of the other great impressionist artists. Renoir exhibited at the first Impressionist Exhibition in 1874. His extensive travels took him to Italy and Algeria where he studied the work of historical masters. Renoir suffered from severe rheumatoid arthritis later in life, but continued to paint even with great deformity of his hands.

impressionist oil painting of Monet painting in his garden by Renoir.    impressionist painting of the artist's house by Renoir

                            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.

impressionist oil painting of a garden by Renoir    impressionist oil painting of a garden by Renoir
Landscapes at Les Collettes

impressionist oil painting of a garden byRenoir    impressionist oil painting of a garden by Renoir
Landscape                                                                       Cagnes

   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.

impressionist oil painting of a garden by Renoir
Landscape

   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.




Copyright Hulsey Trusty Designs, L.L.C. (except where noted). All rights reserved.
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