It’s after Claude Monet’s death on December 5, 1926, that his collections and paintings, as well as the property in Giverny, are bequeathed to his son, Michel Monet. Preferring to embark on an African safari, Michel Monet left the upkeep of the house and the maintenance of the garden to Blanche Monet-Hoschedé who was helped by Mr. Lebret, Head Gardener. When Monet-Hoschedé died in 1947, the house and gardens were sadly left to abandon.
Following Michel Monet’s death in 1966, who was childless and thus without an inheritor, all of his personal belongings were given to the Fine Arts Academy. Despite this handover, there were not sufficient financial resources to pay for the necessary restoration costs. Jacques Carlu, member of the Fine Arts Academy, made the decision to house an original painting and engraving collection from the Marmottan Museum while the roof of the Giverny house was being redone.
Gérald Van der Kamp became owner and proprietor of the Giverny household following Carlu’s death in 1977. He found the house and gardens in a very bad state: weeds were growing everywhere, windows were broken, rust had overtaken metallic railings and the infamous Japanese bridge was rotting away while the ponds’ banks were crumbling. Still, the financial aid put forth by the Fine Arts Academy and the General Council of the Eure was not sufficient. Van der Kamp and his wife thus reached out to American patrons who were fond of Monet's paintings and whose generous donations allowed renovations to begin.
The restoration work lasted three years. House, workshops, furniture and prints were all restored while the garden was given a new life thanks to Gilbert Vahé, Head Gardner. The Japanese bridge was rebuilt, a facsimile of the original. Dead trees were cut and plants that Monet was fond of were replanted. The pond’s crumbling banks were consolidated with sheet piling and the garden’s walkways were redone, poured with cement and bordered by bricks.
The Claude Monet Foundation was officially created in 1980 and the Giverny property was opened to the public on June 1 of the same year. Since then the Foundation welcomes nearly 500,000 visitors every year who come from all over the world. In fact, it’s the second most-visited tourist site in Normandy after the infamous Mont Saint Michel. When Van der Kamp died in 2001, his wife, Florence, took over the Foundation until her death in 2008. Elected by the Fine Arts Academy, Hugues Gall has since been Director of the Claude Monet Foundation.
Without the actions of the Monet Foundation, who knows what the beautiful Monet's house and gardents would have become. Thanks to them, we can now discover Giverny and Monet's source of inspiration.