When people plan on buying a piece of land, it’s normally to make a country house, plant an orchard or grow some crops. Have you heard of a painter who invested in land to grow his imagination for his painting canvas? A hundred and thirty years ago, this French artist, looking out of a running train’s window on a journey crossing Normandy County, west of Paris, identified Giverny as the place for an incredible Paradisiacal garden for all time. If you go there, you will never forget his exquisite arrangement of nature’s colours.
Control over nature: Unstructured is how this garden was considered compared to typical French formal geometric gardens that started from the 16th century. The speciality of French-architected gardens, Jardin a la francaise, is their demonstration of man’s mastery over nature. All plants are constrained and directed, clipped and stylised symmetrically to impose order over vegetation. Emperor Louis XIV had a landscape architect called Andre Le Notre who designed the grand Gardens of Versailles in the 17th century. It was inspired by 16th-century Italian Renaissance garden characterised by laying out patterns at different levels with fountains, cascades and sculptures animating the garden on mythological themes. It sought to represent the Renaissance ideals of harmony and order.
Several new technologies were developed for these stupendous gardens. There was geoplastie, the science of moving large amounts of earth, hydrology for bringing water to irrigate plants and activate fountains, and hydroplasie, the art and science of shaping fountain water to erupt in different shapes. Similar effects were used in fireworks to control fire. Fountains and fireworks were accompanied by music in a design that displayed how the will of man can shape nature, water and fire. French garden designers considered their work a branch of artistic architecture. They constructed the space outside walls of buildings according to the rules of geometry, optics and perspective. Architecture’s dominant role in the garden remained until the English garden concept arrived in Europe in the 18th century. That’s when gardens were inspired not from architecture, but from romantic painting.
Village made famous by an artist: The artist