Photography sometimes flirts happily with painting. Or rather the painters. This is true of Terri Weifenbach’s Giverny: A Year in the Garden, which explores this area of Normandy, made known around the world by the painter and nature lover, Claude Monet (1840–1926). The photographs are steeped in impressionism, enchanted by the light. Meadows fringed with poppies, damsels fishing on the banks of the Epte, haystacks, cathedrals, bridges, canals: Monet lived in the heart of this landscape. He was also passionate about his garden, which he transformed into a small paradise where fruit trees, peonies, tulips, and hydrangeas reigned.
The Musée des Impressionnismes Giverny opened in 2009 not far from Monet’s house and its original garden (which can still be visited—an unforgettable moment), where he had painted his famous Meules [Haystacks], destined for abstraction. The museum also has its own garden, artfully designed by the American Mark Rudkin (1929–2019) and populated by more than 20,000 flowers. It is this (pesticide-free) garden that Terri Weifenbach immortalized throughout the seasons, from June 2021 to June 2022. The work was commissioned, yet without any constraints, so the photographer was free to stroll around these paths where everything seems to float: butterflies and snails alike, the Virginia creeper and the purple hazelnut, the Siberian sage and the poppy with its contagious crimson exuberance.
Terri Weifenbach was born in 1957 in New York and grew up in Washington, D.C. She now lives in Paris and travels around the Burgundy countryside. “She has already published some twenty books,” notes Miranda Salt, the gallery owner who has represented her since her first exhibition in January 2020. “[Terry] is very fond of publishing. Her birds album, published by Atelier EXB, goes back to the roots of that world with a refreshing simplicity. Terri is a humble and generous woman. She takes sensuous delight in nature that she does not try to artificially ennoble. Her work is naive. It is real.”
Working on the Giverny garden, Terri Weifenbach did not seek to imitate Monet or chase after his ghost through the thickets. Rather, she emphasizes the colors, which are very natural, as well as the volume of flowers and trees, which she captures with an instinctive sense of geometry, as if she wanted to protect them from transience. There are various degrees of blur and the sensation of invigorating abundance, as if, somewhere, not far from Paris, an extraordinary garden continued to live, peacefully, tended to by three gardeners and by charming visitors.
The garden has been classified as “remarkable” by the Ministry of Culture, says its director, Cyrille Sciama, in the preface to this delightful book. As a bonus: an index of flowers drawn by Jordan Alves. The most astonishing flower? The pompon dahlia, very casual, which blooms in July, in time for the summer holidays.
Terri Weifenbach, Giverny: A Year in The Garden; with a preface by Cyrille Sciama. Atelier EXB & Musée des Impressionnismes Giverny, bilingual English/French, €36 euros, 144 pp.
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Galerie Miranda, which, in addition to its exhibition space, also has a bookshop with a very classy selection:
Cover photo: Giverny, a year in the garden, September 2021. Giverny, Musée des impressionnismes, purchase from the artist in 2022 © Terri Weifenbach