Julie and I both love flowers and both of us are fairly knowledgeable when it comes to arranging them.
However, neither of us is too handy in the garden, although Julie is working in her garden at the beginning of The Silence of Killing. However, I very much enjoy looking round other people’s gardens (and I expect Julie does, too), and I was much encouraged a few years ago when I read an article which set out to debunk the accepted wisdom that the English love working in their gardens – apparently, most of them don’t. What they do enjoy is snooping round other people’s gardens, just like me.
So I was taken by surprise when I visited the Royal Academy’s garden exhibition and learnt that Monet, admittedly a Frenchman as opposed to an Englishman, was an extremely keen gardener and that, if it hadn’t been for flowers, he rather doubted that he would have been an artist at all. Besides the paintings, there were other interesting documents on display, including an invoice for a host of new plants for his famous Giverny garden, a letter to the local authorities in which he makes an argument for redirecting the river which runs through his estate, and horticultural books which he once owned.
The other thing which surprised me was the number of times which Monet returned to certain subjects. I thought I was familiar with the painting of the Japanese bridge over water, but I left the exhibition wondering just which version it is I know – the one in Paris or the much more vivid picture hanging by its side which normally resides in Moscow. I suppose it must be the former if only for geographical reasons, but the seed of doubt was definitely planted.
And it was the same story for a lot of other paintings – Monet painted his water lilies time and time again, but sometimes they were paler and other times they were in much stronger colours.
There were other artists represented in this exhibition, but somehow my mind lingers on the Monets and their enduring attraction. By the way, painting is an area where Julie definitely knows a little more than I do, and I’m sure she would have had something altogether more learned to say on the matter. However, I do understand some of Monet’s fascination in returning to the same subject time and again – I take pictures of the water lilies in my pond every year!