My new role at Art.com has me on the road meeting with our team, and it was hard to pass up the opportunity to connect with our fabulous crew in Venray, Netherlands. Combining that with spring break meant a family trip to London, Paris, and Amsterdam.
As we planned the trip, we thought a lot about what kind of experience we wanted our family to have. We’re not big on “see everything in a day no matter how tired you are”. We were more interested in creating memories, and wanted to keep at least some of the trip unplanned to allow for serendipitous or only-bookable-locally experiences.
We left ourselves an open day in Paris. Then, thanks to the power of social media, heard about a bike trip to Monet’s home and gardens from Sophie’s former 3rd grade teacher who happened to be in Paris a few days ahead of us.
Making the most of unexpected traffic on our way out of Paris, our guide shared insights about Monet’s life and the experiences of the Impressionists. Using a well-loved, laminated calendar, he used Monet’s paintings to make that time in history, and in Monet’s life, come alive.
I was most surprised to learn how the Impressionists got their name. The picture above, of Japanese-style boats at sunset, was shared during one of their famous salons. A critic who joined, not to learn or be inspired, but to criticize, wrote after the salon that this specific piece wasn’t real art. It wasn’t a painting but just an “impression” of the scene. Monet and his fellow artists seized on that and totally agreed, with the exception of it not being art. Instead, they argued that yes, this was an impression, intentionally. They took the name “Impressionists” as a result.
It wasn’t hard to imagine how Monet was inspired to bring his perspective to life as we biked through Giverny, in the French countryside. Gently rolling green fields settled across the road from a series of rustic though inviting country homes as we peddled casually behind them, glimpsing a bit of laundry here, a sip of wine there.
When we arrived, the gardens and the home were very crowded. During summer’s tourist peak, it must be incredibly jammed. Luckily, the crowds were relaxed and seemed as inspired as we were as they made their way through the gardens.
Monet created over 250 paintings in his water lily series, cranking them out to pay the bills as the economic situation for artists changed dramatically during his time. Gone were the days of years-long commissions to painstakingly detail a Duchess’ life or to document a King’s court. Here were the times of fast brush strokes, the “impression” of the scene, and sales by the piece.
As we wandered through the gardens, even with the crowds, we felt transported back to that time. Picturing what it would be like to have this beautiful, thoughtful, and vibrant garden to inspire the day’s work. It made all of us think about what inspires us and how nature and the outdoors influence us in so many positive ways.
Maybe my son said it best about our trip….
Leo: “Out of five stars, I would give it 4 ½. I liked all of the nice flowers and really liked biking. It wasn’t a five because it was a bit crowded.”