The shaggiest garden

Monet photographed on the Japanese bridge at Giverny, 1922
Derek Jarman, photographed by Howard Sooley, on the Japanese bridge at Giverny, 1993

Monet's garden at Giverny is the ultimate artist's garden. Covering almost two hectares, more like a park than a garden, it was used by Monet as an extension of his studio. He was fascinated by botany – he swapped plants with artist friends such as Caillebottte and was on good terms with the chief gardener of the Jardin des Plantes, with whom he had a regular exchange on garden subjects and new species. In the last decades of his life, the garden became the primary subject of his paintings. Writing to Gustave Geffroy in June 1912, Monet stated modestly, "I do what I can to convey what I experience before nature."

Derek Jarman, whose small but no less magical garden at Dungeness is a world away from the watery, lush, and expansive composition of Giverny, was a great admirer of Monet's garden. His final holiday before his death from complications of Aids was to Giverny, a pilgrimage of sort to another artist's creation. In the last book he ever wrote, a moving record of the improbably beautiful garden he had created in the inhospitable landscape of Dungeness–a desolate expanse of shingle facing a nuclear power station–Derek pronounced Monet's garden "the shaggiest garden in the world, only possible to describe in the flecks and dabs of colour in his paintings." This is the highest compliment Derek could bestow on any garden, since in his estimation, "If a garden isn't shaggy, forget it."

No comments:

Post a Comment