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  • Writer's pictureTravis J. Vanden Heuvel

The Artist’s Garden – Monet

Photography: The Artist’s Garden at Vétheuil, 1881, oil on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

Two of Claude Monet’s paintings of the garden at his home in Vétheuil, France, will be on view together for the first time since they were created more than 100 years ago as part of a long-term series of loan exchanges between the National Gallery of Art, Washington, and the Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena.


On view in the French impressionism galleries of the West Building from May 19 through August 8, 2018, the Norton Simon version of The Artist’s Garden at Vétheuil (1881) is believed to have served as the basis for the Gallery’s canvas of the same title. The paintings are the only two of the four known works Monet painted of this scene currently in public collections. They are a rare example of Monet reworking a scene painted en plein air later in his studio until he reached his final, magnificent composition.

“Since 2007 the Gallery and the Norton Simon’s series of loan exchanges have shared rarely lent works with new audiences on the East and West coasts,” said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art, Washington. “The special installation of Monet’s two renditions of The Artist’s Garden at Vétheuil allows us to learn more about the creation of the Gallery’s painting. We are grateful to the Norton Simon for their loan, which is a wonderful temporary addition to the outstanding works by Monet on view in our permanent collection galleries, including several others created during the artist’s time in Vétheuil.”


Bouquet of Gladiolas, Lilies and Dasies by Claude Monet

Adds Norton Simon Museum president Walter Timoshuk, “It is a privilege to continue this special art exchange program with the National Gallery of Art, which was a favorite of Norton Simon’s, and to see these remarkable paintings side-by-side. We extend our thanks to Rusty and his exceptional team of curators and specialists who organized this thoughtful installation.”

Monet in Vétheuil 

Following financial difficulties, Monet moved in 1878 with his family (including his recently born son, Michel) to the small village of Vétheuil, located northwest of Paris on the bank of the Seine. There, Monet rented a house with his former patron Ernest Hoschedé, who had also recently fallen on hard times. Monet’s wife Camille fell ill shortly before moving to Vétheuil and passed away in September of 1879. After her death Monet remained in the town along with Hoschedé’s wife, Alice (who would later become the artist’s second wife), and her six children until they relocated to Poissy at the end of 1881.


Evening in the Meadow at Giverny by Claude Monet

While painting views of Vétheuil’s buildings and landscapes, Monet also experimented with scenes of his home’s gardens in the summer of 1881. Both versions of The Artist’s Garden at Vétheuil depict a central pathway flanked by wild greenery and statuesque sunflower stalks leading to a stairway up to the house. The Norton Simon study shows blue-and-white flowerpots planted with red gladiolas on either side of the path. The flowerpots belonged to Monet and are seen in earlier views of his garden in Argenteuil. In both works Monet also painted identical cloud patterns in the topmost register of the canvas.


While Monet settled the basic elements of the composition in the Norton Simon study, he refined the details, enlarged the composition, and added the figures in the Gallery’s version, his final of the subject. For the larger canvas created in his studio Monet extended the pathway and added two more blue-and-white pots. Perhaps his most significant addition though, was the incorporation of three figures: Monet’s son Michel next to a wagon on the path along with Jean-Pierre Hoschedé and a woman believed to be a member of the extended Monet/Hoschedé household behind him on the stairs. Monet’s process for this painting is unusual. While earlier paintings were presumably created en plein air and later series repeated common subjects in varied light or weather conditions, for this view of his garden at Vétheuil, Monet revisited the same scene at the same time of day, building upon it until he arrived at the final masterpiece.

Photo: Monet


Monet’s Water Lilies

The National Gallery of Art and its Sculpture Garden are at all times free to the public. They are located on the National Mall between 3rd and 9th Streets at Constitution Avenue NW, and are open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. The Gallery is closed on December 25 and January 1. For information call (202) 737-4215 or visit the Gallery’s Web site at Follow the Gallery on Facebook at, Twitter at, and Instagram at


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