Monet on his footbridge (to the right), New York Times, 1922
There are so many wonderful features in Claude Monet’s Giverny garden, which does, at least in part, account for its enduring appeal. Given that French Impressionism and Monet in particular is widely thought to be the most popular genre of art, we are all ‘familiar’ with the garden before we even get there. These different features were each created by Monet, and then repeatedly painted on canvasses that are now well known, and in galleries and collections around the World. One of those features I never tire of seeing is the Japanese footbridge. Although a simple structure, it is a very striking one – flanked by willows and covered in wisteria.
Monet had the foot bridge constructed in the second half of 1893, shortly after he was given permission to do so on 24 July 1893. With his passion for all things Japanese, it is not surprising he chose such a style for the footbridge over his water lily pond. Julie Manet (Edouard Manet’s niece) visited Giverny on 30 October, and noted in her diary for that day that a ‘Japanese looking’ bridge spans the pond. Monet employed local craftsmen for the bridge, but when the gardens were restored in the late 1970s the footbridge had to be replaced.
Claude Monet. 1899. Waterlily pond, green harmony [Le bassin aux nymphéas, harmonie verte]. Oil on canvas 89 cm x 93.5 cm. © Musée d’Orsay, Paris.
As with all his other favoured subjects, Monet painted the footbridge frequently from the mid 1890s on in to the 1920s. Above, is a painting made in 1899, while that below was done in 1918-24 – and is typical of his later paintings, a character some ascribe to his failing eyesight.
I am fortunate to be able to visit Monets’ house and gardens frequently, throughout the year – although spring is certainly my favourite time of year. The footbridge changes quite dramatically over the year. In early spring it is all but bare, with an entirely leafless wisteria. As the seasons change and the wisteria comes to life, so too the bridge takes on a different appearance.
Below are a few of my photographs of the bridge, my very own Japanese Bridge series if you like – I have arranged them in order by the month in which each was taken (which ends up as reverse year order), so that you can see how the bridge changes with the seasons. Click on one of the photographs and a larger image will appear in ‘screenbox’, then move your mouse over the image and you will see where to click for the next photograph and the previous one.
Early spring, 2011
A ‘close up’ of the photograph above showing the flowers on the left bank of the pond, April 2011
The Japanese Bridge itself, towards the end of April 2010, you can see the wisteria is about to come into bloom
Taken in the early evening, when the gardens were open for “Nuits des Musées”, mid May 2011
The water lily pond taken from the opposite side of the pond to the bridge, July 2009
The bridge from the left hand side of the water lily pond, July 2009
The Japanese Bridge in summer, July 2009, there can be a queue then to get your photograph take on the Bridge