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Claude Monet - Japanese Bridge in the Garden of Giverny

by Alexandra Tuschka

Monet painted this painting when he had already been living at his country estate for several years. In the 30 years he stayed there, he almost exclusively thematized this garden, which can still be visited today. Light and shadow and the influence of different times of day and seasons, as well as subjective perception on the motifs, made the garden an inexhaustible source. Monet studied this so meticulously that he created over 250 works on the theme of water lilies and his own cultivated ornamental garden.

The motif of the Japanese bridge in the center of the picture is one of the serial works from his garden. Frontally, the Japanese designed wooden arch bridge is shown from the west side of his large pond, which is surrounded by tall weeping willows. Because of the rich riparian vegetation, the eye remains trapped in the green thicket; the horizon and sky cannot be made out, but are hinted at in the water reflections, which is why Monet called his paintings "reflective landscapes." The parallel wooden railing at the bridge has the only linear structures in the painting, but it is difficult for the viewer to focus precisely on the subject. Out of focus and cut off from the edges of the painting, the path arches over the pond, while below, yellow, green, and red hues form a conglomeration of algae, lily blossoms and leaves, and reflective water surfaces in deliberate but momentary brushstrokes and dabs.

Monet rarely considered a work complete and had reason to constantly rework it, which is why only a small percentage of his works were signed by him. After a continuous series of paintings lasting ten years, he did not deal with his Japanese bridge again for twelve years from 1908 to 1920, after which he abolished the symmetrical structure and only hinted at the bridge in the midst of a mass of color with two dark arches. But while his garden scenes had small formats at the turn of the century, they subsequently grew to ever larger dimensions. 

Claude Monet - Japanese Bridge in the Garden of Giverny

Oil on canvas, 1899, 88.3 × 93.1 cm, National Gallery in London


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