The Characters referenced in Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” (Part 18, Claude Monet)

The British gardener who’s taking care of Monet’s water lilies

By John Lichfield in Paris

Thursday, 5 May 2011

James Priest, the new head gardener at Giverny. Monet's White Water Lilies, 1899, right PA/ REX FEATURESJames Priest, the new head gardener at Giverny. Monet’s White Water Lilies, 1899, right British gardener is to take over one of the most venerated plots of ground in the world: the garden created more than a century ago by the French Impressionist painter Claude Monet.

From next month, James Priest, 53, will become head gardener at Giverny in Normandy, Monet’s home for 43 years and the inspiration for some of his most admired paintings, including his famed water lily canvases.

Mr Priest, who was trained at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, becomes a successor to Monet himself, who designed and shaped the five acres of flower beds and water lily ponds until his death, aged 86, in 1926

“This is an enormous honour and I’m only just beginning to realise how daunting a task it will be,” Mr Priest told The Independent yesterday. “The garden seems very simple but the more you look at it you see that it is a very rich garden, a very profound garden. On top of that, there is the enormous public and media interest in what goes on here. I have just been interviewed for the French television news. That never happened in my previous jobs.”

Mr Priest, who comes from Maghull, north of Liverpool, has worked in France for 26 years, looking after the grounds of a succession of large estates, including 17 years working for Baron Elie de Rothschild at Royaumont near Chantilly. At Giverny, he succeeds Gilbert Vahé who restored the garden in the late 1970s from an overgrown wilderness to the glory of its Monet days. Mr Vahé, who is retiring after 35 years, will retain a consultancy role.

One of the best known features of the garden, the hump-backed Japanese bridge over a lily pond, features in the Woody Allen movie Midnight in Paris which will open the Cannes film festival next week.

Mr Priest, who will head a team of eight gardeners , said his intention was to preserve the “unique identity and character” of Giverny. “This is not an English garden, although it has some English features. It is not exactly a French garden either,” he said. “It is an artist’s garden, which parallels in some respects the way that Monet painted. He built up his canvasses in layers of paint, to catch the light in different ways. In the same way, you realise that the flower beds here have been conceived in layers of height and colour to catch the light.”

Monet’s house and garden at Giverny, run by the Fondation Claude Monet, attract 500,000 visitors a year from all over the world. The artist moved to Giverny, 60 miles west of Paris, in 1883. He started the garden initially as a source of cut flowers which he could paint indoors on dull or rainy days. “He seems rapidly to have succumbed to the obsession, the disease, which is love of gardening,” Mr Priest said. Some of Monet’s most loved late paintings show Giverny, including large canvasses of water lilies on the pond straddled by is green footbridge in the Japanese style.

Monet once wrote: “Apart from painting and gardening, I am no good at anything.”

After his death, his house and garden fell into disrepair. The site was restored between 1977 and 1980 using the records of local plant nurseries as well as the Monet’s letters, photographs and paintings.

The dry, sunny weather this year means that Monet’s garden is several weeks ahead of its normal schedule. “If the dry weather continues, we may have to consider using some plants which need less water,” Mr Priest said. “Someone asked me if I intended to plant cactuses at Giverny, but I don’t think we are there yet.”

Claude Monet: Inventing Impressionism

I have enjoyed going through the artists referenced in Woody Allen’s movie “Midnight in Paris.” Paul is the snobby expert on impressionist art that talks about Monet at the museum in Paris. Also Gil talks about Monet in the opening scene of the movie when he says he wishes he could move to Paris where Monet painted.

Recently I visited the “Impressionism Art Exhibit” at the Arkansas Arts Center in Little Rock presented by Harriet and Warren Stephens.  It had lots of paintings by Monet and my favorite is the one below:

Autumn on the Seine at Argenteuil 1873    
enlarge Enlarge PaintingPainting Name: Autumn on the Seine at Argenteuil 1873
Painting Size: 36”inches wide by 26”inches high

By the way, I know that some of you are wondering how many posts I will have before I am finished. Right now I have plans to look at Van Gogh, Picasso, Man Ray, T.S. Elliot and several more.

Impressionists live

From Sacha Guitry’s film Ceux de chez nous 1914-15. Auguste Renoir and Claude Monet painting, Edgar Degas walking.


Take a look at this biography below:

Monet is recognized to be one of the founders of Impressionism, and he was the most constant and convinced of all.Since his beginnings as an artist, he was encouraged to always listen and transmit his perceptions, and all criticisms which he had to undergo never did move him away from this search.Claude Monet was born in Paris on November 14, 1840 but all his impressions as a child and teenager are related to the city of Le Havre where his family moved in 1845. There his father held a trade of colonial articles .  

Self-portrait with a beret

Private Collection


Whereas he was still at college, he gained a certain notoriety while drawing caricatures which he showed in a store of drawing supplies with which Eugene Boudin worked at the time. Finally Boudin convinced the young Monet, at first very reticent, to paint with him in the open air. Monet will say later: “by the only example of this artist fond of his art and of his independence, my destiny as a painter had opened”.

His family was not opposed that he became a painter, but his independent ideas, his criticism of academic painting and his refusal to follow a good Art School repeatedly caused arguments within his family. Finally, Monet started to paint in Paris at the Charles Suisse Academy where he will meet Pissarro in 1859, and Cézanne in 1861, before having to carry out his military obligations.

His military service in Algeria (1860-1861) was stopped by a typhoid which brought him back to France, where he started again to work in the summer of 1862 in Le Havre with Boudin and the Dutch landscape-painter Jongkind. He will say speaking of Jongkind : “…by there completing the teaching which I had received from Boudin, he was from this moment my true Master, and it is to him that I owe the final education of my eye”.


La Bavolle street, Honfleur
Stadische Kunsthalle Mannheim ,

  Released by his aunt of the rest of his military service, he resumed more serious studies at the School of Fine Art of Paris, and particularly he integrated the Workshop of one of the professors of the School, Swiss painter Charles Gleyre, where he was going to bind friendship with Bazille, Renoir and Sisley.In the years 1860, these young artists attended the Café Guerbois, a place where Edouard Manet and Emile Zola often went.


The history of Impressionism cannot be dissociated of that of the Official Salon.

The social, economic and cultural evolution of XIXth century will have as a consequence that, from now on, art works would be created mainly by independent artists (rather than by painters at the service of some prince or corporation).

For these artists, finding possibilities of exhibition was an existential concern. Although art dealers and their galleries were going to take an increasing importance, in France, the most important and impossible to circumvent possibility of exhibition was the Official “Salon of Paris”.

  From 1863 on, the Salon will be held on an annual basis and a jury made up of members of the Academy of Fine Arts and of preceding medal-holders of the Salon will select works to be presented. For the only year 1863, 4000 works were refused on the 5000 requests coming from some 3000 artists, which led to the creation in 1863 of the “Salon des Refusés” (Salon of the Refused ones) .For Monet and his friends, Renoir, Bazille, Sisley… years between the “Salon des Refusés” and the War of 1870 were going to be placed under the sign of an anxious research of their artistic personality and of a fast alternation of successes and failures. If they were, except for Cézanne, selected at the Salon at their first attempt (in 1865 for Monet), they will afterwards experience frequent refusals.  

Regattas at Sainte-Adresse
Metropolitan Museum of Art
New York

During all this period, these young painters consolidated the links existing between them and developed new relationships, seeking for new inspirations and pictorial means. Except for those who had a comfortable financial situation (Degas, Caillebotte, Bazille), they will face periods of bitter poverty, and especially Monet – whom Bazille helped financially – when he had to assume alone his household. They painted in the open air, in the surroundings of Paris or on the Norman Coast, where the experiment of the optical phenomena of light and color which passioned them was more intense

An important crossroads of the evolution of Monet was when he painted in 1869 with Renoir a series of paintings in a place of leisures and meeting in Bougival called “the Grenouillère”, very appreciated by the Parisian middle-class, with bathing, canoeing and a floating restaurant. The paintings which they made while working with fast and vigorous brushstrokes loaded with pure color, corresponding to the turbulent animation of the small world which pressed there, mark the emergence of a new artistic style dominated by the impression , rather than details, inaugurating what was going five years later to be called “Impressionism”.


Monet was to live from 1883 until its death in 1926, that is to say more than forty years, in his property in Giverny, of which he will gradually transform the garden in a decorative set.

Monet removes bad grasses and hedges, then digs, sows grass, plants decorative trees and creates series of various flower beds. He also produces a kitchen garden to nourish his family. In the evening, the children often weed and water.


(Opening scene of “Midnight in Paris”)What was in the beginning only a Norman orchard with only grass and apple trees becomes, with the contribution of all the family, an historical garden . It is a work of patience, which Monet continues with love. Even when the task becomes too bigt so that he cannot assume it alone, he supervises his team of gardeners (1 garden chief and six assistants).

Monet buys seeds and plants everywhere he goes, concludes exchanges with other gardeners. It is him who searches the catalogues and places the orders, that they be for seeds, pots, melon bells…

In 1893, he begins the installation of his famous “water garden” with the pond with the nymphea.

In 1899, Monet studied for the first time the subject of the nymphea (species of water lilies): The nymphea white (1899). The Japanese bridge (1899), Nymphea (1914), (1917), were the principal topics of its last works.


The Japanese bridge
over the water-lilies pond
at Giverny
Princeton University Art Museum
New Jersey


Monet leaves a considerable work as much in quantity (more than 2000 indexed works), as by his impressionist research, expression of which he is the most typical representative. The father of Impressionism will write on this subject little time before his death:

Photo of the japanese bridge
over the water-lilies pond
at Giverny
“I always had horror of theories… I only had the merit to paint directly in front of nature, trying to translate its most fugitive effects, and I remain sorry to have been the cause of the name given to a group of which the majority did not have anything impressionist

Photo of the garden
and the house of Monet
at Giverny

Monet’s estate at Giverny is now opened for public visits. It is maintained by the “Claude Monet Foundation

Photo of Monet‘s house
at Giverny
Monet bequeathed to the State fourteen large paintings of his nymphea, which were placed in 1927, little after his death, in two oval rooms of the Museum of the Orangery in the Tuileries Garden.

Photo of the water-lilies pond
at Giverny

How Should We Then Live? Episode 8: The Age Of Fragmentation

Published on Jul 24, 2012

Dr. Schaeffer’s sweeping epic on the rise and decline of Western thought and Culture


The above clip is from the film series by Francis Schaeffer “How should we then live?” Below is an outline of the 8th episode on the Impressionists and the age of Fragmentation.


I. Art As a Vehicle Of Modern Thought

A. Impressionism (Monet, Renoir, Pissarro, Sisley, Degas) and Post-Impressionism (Cézanne, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Seurat): appearance and reality.

1. Problem of reality in Impressionism: no universal.

2. Post-Impression seeks the universal behind appearances.

3. Painting expresses an idea in its own terms as a work of art; to discuss the idea in a painting is not to intellectualize art.

4. Parallel search for universal in art and philosophy; Cézanne.

B. Fragmentation.

1. Extremes of ultra-naturalism or abstraction: Wassily Kandinsky.

2. Picasso leads choice for abstraction: relevance of this choice.

3. Failure of Picasso (like Sartre, and for similar reasons) to be fully consistent with his choice.

C. Retreat to absurdity.

1. Dada , and Marcel Duchamp: art as absurd. (Dada gave birth to Surrealism).

2. Art followed philosophy but came sooner to logical end.

3. Chance in his art technique as an art theory impossible to practice: Pollock.


II. Music As a Vehicle of Modern Thought

A. Non-resolution and fragmentation: German and French streams.

1. Influence of Beethoven’s last Quartets.

2. Direction and influence of Debussy.

3. Schoenberg’s non-resolution; contrast with Bach.

4. Stockhausen: electronic music and concern with the element of change.

B. Cage: a case study in confusion.

1. Deliberate chance and confusion in Cage’s music.

2. Cage’s inability to live the philosophy of his music.

C. Contrast of music-by-chance and the world around us.

1. Inconsistency of indulging in expression of chaos when we acknowledge order for practical matters like airplane design.

2. Art as anti-art when it is mere intellectual statement, divorced from reality of who people are and the fullness of what the universe is.

III. General Culture As the Vehicle of Modern Thought

A. Propagation of idea of fragmentation in literature.

1. Effect of Eliot’s Wasteland and Picasso’s Demoiselles d’ Avignon compared; the drift of general culture.

2. Eliot’s change in his form of writing when he became a Christian.

3. Philosophic popularization by novel: Sartre, Camus, de Beauvoir.

B. Cinema as advanced medium of philosophy.

1. Cinema in the 1960s used to express Man’s destruction: e.g. Blow-up.

2. Cinema and the leap into fantasy:


The Hour of the Wolf, Belle de Jour, Juliet of the Spirits,

The Last Year at Marienbad.

3. Bergman’s inability to live out his philosophy (see Cage):

Silence and The Hour of the Wolf.

IV. Only on Christian Base Can Reality Be Faced Squarely

LUNDI 20 JUIN 2011

“Midnight in Paris”: A Magical Walk Through the City of Light

Going to the movies is a favorite American pastime. Though a trip to the movie theater might not be high on the priority  list of most visitors to France, going to the cinéma is a fantastic way to get a whole new sense of modern French culture. Most movie theaters offer several American films at any given time, all of which are in English and subtitled in French.  Woody Allen’s new romantic comedy “Midnight in Paris” (called Minuit à Paris” here in France) has caught the attention of French and American spectators alike and is the perfect film for anyone who loves the City of Light. Seeing “Midnight in Paris” while actually in Paris is a special treat, as one recognizes almost all of the beautiful settings Woody Allen features throughout the film.
The French movie theater experience is fundamentally different from that of America. Most theaters are smaller, thus it’s a good idea to buy your tickets in advance or allow a little extra time at the theater to ensure that you have a seat. At just €5.90 for a student, French movie tickets are certainly less expensive than the $11 to $12 fares one often sees in the States. With those savings, one can indulge in a big tub of popcorn, which is typically much less buttery than the salty stuff Americans are accustomed to. Some French movie theaters even feature macaroons, wine and beer for their more discerning patrons!
After getting situated with tickets and refreshments, settling into the theater’s ultra-plush seats for a showing of “Midnight in Paris” was a very comfortable way to enjoy a virtual walking tour of the city. In the film, a young Hollywood screenwriter named Gil (played by Owen Wilson) accompanies the family of his fiancée Ines (played by Rachel McAdams) on a business trip to Paris before their wedding. While Ines and her parents remain totally absorbed in the material aspects of Paris and are quick to judge the French and their lifestyle, Gil revels in the rich cultural offerings of the City of Light. Each night, he explores the city on foot and is magically swept away to 1920s-era Paris, where he meets legendary figures of the past such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein and Pablo Picasso.Through these imaginary encounters with decades past in Paris, Gil gains an entirely new perspective on his own modern life and his love of the city itself. Woody Allen shows his audience some of the most beautiful vistas in Paris and demonstrates his own adoration for the city throughout the film, leaving spectators charmed by the movie’s visual aspects if nothing else. He also brings to light many of the stereotypes that Americans hold of the French and vice versa, prompting his audiences to reflect on their own cultural perceptions of both countries.“Midnight in Paris” features a host of well-known American and French faces (French first lady Carla Bruni even makes a cameo!) and has been well-received by critics in both countries. A.O. Scott of The New York Times called the film “charming” as well as “modest and lighthearted” and movie critics in the French press lauded Allen for his portrayal of Paris comme une carte postale (like a postcard). Whether you’re vacationing in Paris or simply dreaming of the City of Light from home, making a trip to see “Midnight in Paris” is a magical way to experience France’s capital. Bon voyage!

Other posts on “Midnight in Paris”:”

The Characters referenced in Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” (Part 21,Versailles and the French Revolution)

In Woody Allen’s movie “Midnight in Paris” Gil and his friends take a tour of Versailles (pictured below). In a comical scene from that movie the detective that is following Gil finds himself at Versailles back at the time of the French Revolution and he intrudes in on the king and queen of France. Then […]

The Characters referenced in Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” (Part 20, King Louis XVI of France)

  I am presently going through all the historical figures that are mentioned in the Woody Allen movie “Midnight in Paris.” Today I am discussing Marie Antoinette’s husband King Louis XVI of France. Pictured above you can see Gil and Inez on their visit to tour Versailles with their snobby friend Paul. Paul goes on to […]

The Characters referenced in Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” (Part 19,Marie Antoinette)

Marie Antoinette: The Last Queen of France (part1/12) I am presently going through all the historical figures that are mentioned in the Woody Allen movie “Midnight in Paris.” Today I am discussing Marie Antoinette. In the movie you can see Gil and Inez on their visit to tour Versailles with their snobby friend Paul. Paul goes on […]

The Characters referenced in Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” (Part 18, Claude Monet)

The British gardener who’s taking care of Monet’s water lilies   By John Lichfield in Paris Thursday, 5 May 2011 PA/ REX FEATURES James Priest, the new head gardener at Giverny. Monet’s White Water Lilies, 1899, right British gardener is to take over one of the most venerated plots of ground in the world: the […]

The Characters referenced in Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” (Part 17, J. M. W. Turner)

J. M. W. Turner Biography   View Larger Image > ( 1775 – 1851 ) I have enjoyed going through the artists referenced in Woody Allen’s movie “Midnight in Paris.” Paul is the snobby expert on impressionist art that talks about Monet at the museum but he notes that Turner was actually really the author […]

The characters referenced in Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” (Part 16, Josephine Baker)

I have been going through the characters in Woody Allen’s movie “Midnight in Paris,” and now I am posting about Josephine Baker. By the way, I know that some of you are wondering how many posts I will have before I am finished. Right now I have plans to look at Van Gogh, Picasso, Man […]

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  •  On December 4, 2013 at 2:12 am

    First of all I want to say wonderful blog!
    I had a quick question that I’d like to
    ask if you do not mind. I was curious to find out how you center yourself and clear your thoughts before writing.
    I have had a tough time clearing my mind in getting my ideas
    out. I truly do take pleasure in writing however it just seems
    like the first 10 to 15 minutes tend to be wasted simply just trying to
    figure out how to begin. Any suggestions or tips?
    Many thanks!

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