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Follies “Monceau,” La Vie Romantique and Monet’s Giverny, Ville de Fleurs


Who isn’t enchanted by the wonderful cursive organic Art Nouveau Metro Designs by French architect Hector Guimard? What would Paris be without “His Metro?”  Monceau is a Park with a storied history….


A French Duke of Orleans bought the land of Parc Monceau in 1769 and asked Louis Carrogis, called Carmontelle, creator of “fetes” and spectacles, to create garden picturesque “scenes” of illusions of different eras and countries. This “picturesque” style became the vogue style in the era of French Rococo and Parc Monceau had “Collections” of a Dutch windmill, classical Roman ruins, Eqyptian oblilesks and pyramids, English garden styles, etc. A Round Greek Temple with a colonnade as seen above was added by French architect Nicolas Ledoux as an official “office” for the garden… Nice Office.


This is a circular Roman Colonnade was part of a Naumachia, referring back to to ancient Greek and Roman world where the emperors (Julius Caesar, being the first one) had festivals called Naumachias (greek for Naval Combat). It was part of the “stage set” surrounding a basin for “Naval Battles” as mass entertainment ….They  were like Hollywood productions using 6000 prisoners of war and digging basins or using the Tiber, with real combat and death, all to create an entertainment spectacle.(Wikipedia fills in some facts!)  Unbelievable.


One would never guess the historic meaning of this lovely colonnade….
A “Folly” bien sur!


A “Miniature Folly” is in this Petit Pont and River inviting a petite promenade….
My watercolor of it is buried in a suitcase…. The royal property was taken by the French government after the French Revolution, and finally refashioned by Alphand (public works creator) under grand designs of Haussmann and Napolean III  to recreate Paris’ urban plan with a plentiful park system. The Bridge and river, Grotto and cascade, the Naumachia colonnade, Roman Arch, and pyramid are some elements that have been preserved.


……giving us a trace of the Egyptian World.


The Monceau quarter is a very upscale neighborhood with wealthy families of that day, Pereire, Rothschild, Cernuschi, Ménier, Camondo members using the park and creating its reputation and allure. Monet painted the rich bourgeoisie promenading here! A park that is very popular today was a “garden cabinet of curiosities” in its original day. Marcel Proust played here as a child…. Did he have a premonition of  “Remembrance of Things Past” here ?!  Just imagining…..!
But more of Monet a little later…. when he’s not busy painting at Parc Monceau…


The contemporary “Folly” of Merry-Go-Rounds is everywhere in Paris’ Parks
as is an adult essential: Wifi!


I couldn’t resist a “Go” at a Merry-go-Round! And the Chestnut Trees!

Parc-Monceau-Chestnut Trees

 The Chestnuts are beautiful trees to paint and their blooms are fantastic in late April/early May.

La Vie Romantique-Jatdin-Musée

And now leaving the Follies for the Romance of the 19th century world of Ary Sheffer’s Montmartre home and garden and the legendary visitors of the Romantic Period and Style in Literature, Music and Art, Chopin, George Sand, Delcacroix and friends….

vie romantique-1s

A long tree canopied path leads to  to home and garden, now a museum, and hidden in the heart of Montmartre.


the courtyard…. Horse and Carriages imagined here in the 1840s with Chopin and George Sand arriving…


The entrance to the museum with tourists taking a break….


The entrance to the garden….


with it’s lovely leisurely ambience…


and light and congeniality…. Too inviting not to paint….


In fact I had time to paint 2 sketches…..The warm light was joyous….


The garden is waiting for you to have a seat!


And the romance and spirit of the Romantics—of people enjoying themselves
continues to today!  The garden is delight!


An now for Giverny! Monet’s Paradise and  Garden Lover Mecca!
Did you know that the artists going to Giverny can get an Artist Pass to paint in the gardens from 5:30 pm to 8 pm on weekday evenings!? More to come as I am lingering at the Musée and Jardin de la Vie Romantigue too long and need to go the Giverny another day!  With all this Garden “Galloping,” one needs to take a break at beautiful garden cafes!  Un café élongé, si vous plait! ….Perfect! …L’Aprés-midi Parfait!!  ….. Giverny, La prochaine!




Flora, Fauna and Follies…a Roundelay of Gardens in Paris

Parc Florale Paris


Parc Florale Paris

Flora: Beautiful Giant, Giant, Giant Rhododendrums are hiding in the Parc Floral, a contemporary-designed showcase park, in eastern Paris in the Bois Vincennes opposite the Chateau Vincennes…. Photomontage of many big plants above!

Parc Florale

The combination of the Rhododendrums and tall white Pines impress!

Parc Florale Paris

Especially on the dreary rainy day in May that I visited and was surprised by the gorgeous Rhododendrums….There is always something in bloom in gardens, contrasting gardens that just bloomed or are about to bloom !
Parc Florale Paris

Above shows the “in between” plantings time from April’s blooms to June’s blooms….The park hosts fantastic events and concerts in the summer here…..Motto for May: Don’t leave home without your umbrella/parapluie!

Parc Florale Paris Watercolor by Lois Bender

When you’re so excited about color, it’s hard to remember to leave white space….. here’s a first wet into wet layer that dried; then, I added the accents of bright color.  Wet into Wet on a larger scale is just bigger “Charging in color” and tilting the paper to control the runny pools of watery paint!   Charge!

Parc Florale Paris Watercolor by Lois Bender

Here’s more white space! A Good Rule: Stop when you think your watercolor is “unfinished!” because the white space reads as light, connecting the form and color! I forget that the unfinished quality has this strong power of suggestion.

Parc Florale

You can get lost looking at all the Rhododendrums, but the fun signage points the way….


and now for the Fauna! in the next Garden to the south…Parc Montsouris, a 14th arrondissement urban park in the “landscape style” innovated by the 19th c. Alphonse Alphand under Baron Haussmann’s direction in 1878, is done in a grand “man-made” style with sloping lawns, majestic trees, circular flowerbeds and allées with landscaped scenic vistas, custom-designed for promenading by nature-craving industrial age city-dwellers — a style subsequently imitated worldwide….(Central Park?)

Parc Monsouris in Paris

This watercolor vignette of a meandering park corner gives the woodsy bucolic tranquility on another!… rainy day in the park….Then I wandered upon the lake where under some small dwarf pines, to my surprise,

Photo-Parc-Montsouris-2 Black Swans

I found my very own “Black Swan Lake,” home to many wildlife birds, including 2 Blacks Swans and their 2 baby swan(lings?)s! Never seeing black swans before, and seeing they really exist, was startling to me….

Parc Montsouris

An actual real contrast to our very own East Hampton pair of swans in the pond by Guild Hall….Perhaps the swans can do an exchange program for a year so we can see black swans in East Hampton for a year….And speaking of Fauna, did you know…?

Kangaroos at the Jardin des Plantes

that Paris has its very own Kangaroos residing at the Jardin de Plantes’ Zoo (Paris’ Botanical Garden and Zoo) …..YES, Quelle revelation!


This 18th c. Garden, founded in the Age of Enlightenment by France’s great Men of Science, has great educational programming in all “Flora and Fauna” as I learned! while searching for the “Rosarie” Garden


in front of the great 18th c. architecture…..before another round of rain, “La Pluie”…..


…. now time to run into a “McDo,” MacDonald’s for “un café and wifi”…. before I face the “Follies”

Jardin du Albert Kahn

On another day (note finally the sun!) I followed Frenchman Pierre’s (of Pierre’s Restaurant in Bridgehampton) advice not to miss the Musée et Jardin du Albert Kahn, a place paying tribute to the 19-20th c. outstanding businessman-diplomat who believed in world peace through understanding the world cultures. Both Pierre….and Kahn….are right!  The Musée’s 5 Gardens represent different world cultures, of which the Japanese Garden is truly an amazing example of landscape design in the eccentric design genre or “Follies,” using surprises of textures, constructions, shapes, layerings, color and materials like Bonsai miniature trees on platforms standing in the ponds, conical pyramids in stone, tricks of scale and size, sharp color contrasts…. There’s an imported Tea House and Village…. It’s just eye candy everywhere you turn!…..


Textures bombarding you in unusual designs…. See the “Dot Motif” in the Pines and stones….
New England stone walls were never like this….


The repetitions of  the Cone shape in topiary-shaped plants…. yet not at all like French Formal Design, Bien Sur!

Jardin du Albert-Kahn

And the reflections in the pool were incredible…. so many great photos I couldn’t put into this blog….Jardin du Albert-Kahn

I got so involved in “noodling” the details of this watercolor! The intensity of the yellows & blues captivated me….

Jardin du Albert-Kahn Watercolor by Lois Bender

Red leaves of the Japanese Trees in Spring add range and variety to a non-autumnal garden! I just kept widening my eyes and dropping my jaw at seeing so much invention, conception and innovation in”artifice and style” here in the layerings of shapes of colors!


But French Gardens have their own conceptual “Follies” style of exotic themes, a garden style originating in the 1700s. I leave you here at Parc Monceau in the northern “quartier” of Paris which has its very own Metro Monceau to continue the Garden Tour next blog with Parc Monceau (with exotic, fanciful, romantic and picturesque jardins a la mode). In this “Painting the Gardens of Paris” tour, time for an Intermission, D’accord, “ok?” ….Mais, oui!!…… I leave CAMAC, Marnay-sur-Seine, tomorrow for Paris for a few days before returning to NY. So many Gardens, so little time, ….but time to take a breath for a relaxing end to the tour!

Voulez-vous Promenader sur La Promenade Plantée (the French “HighLine!” ) ou Musée Rodin, peut-être!?


France was first, before Chelsea, NY, at transforming an abandoned railway line (in the 12e Arrondissement)—the old Vincennes Railway, running 2.9 miles east of the Opera Bastille to Bois Vincennes—into a “green belt” of a continuous pathway park promenade called Promenade Plantée where it descends below street level with tunnels eastward from Parc Reuilly (midway) and called Viaduc des Arts where the railway was elevated on an archway trestle viaduct running parallel to Rue Daumesnil near the Opera Bastille. How clever of the French to create a series of artisan specialty shops—the Viaduc of the Arts—into the transformed archways below the Garden Promenade walkway above! How clever to be first (Sorry, Chelsea)!



or Perfect for a run! The day I visited was a work stoppage, a “greve” by the SNCF French Railroad and the Traffic below was “New York” horrendous, police everywhere redirecting furious drivers… So glad to be on the Promenade above it all!


Much nicer to look at a Park than a Railroad ! as the Real Estate around Promenade Plantée discovered….


Every Parisian Park has enlightening signage…..


See the Roses!


Smell the Roses!

Promenade Plantée

Paint the Roses!

Promenade Plantee

or draw watercolor crayon-style…giving a dry brush feeling of the accentuated tooth of the paper!

Promenade Plantée

A surprise awaits as the railway “path” opens up to a park with a skyway walkway “Bridge”above Parc Reuilly connecting the Viacduc section to the next section below ground level coming ahead….


with gardens around the circumference where I am walking…


a watercolor combining different views…. but look outward towards the street and another garden appears…

Promenade Plantée

The “Vertical Gardens” on the walls and buildings in Paris….so in vogue today— behind which is the traffic from the “greve”—strike!

Bastille and SNCF railroad workers striking

BTW, this is what was causing the straffic several weeks ago, French SNCF workers striking in a “mani”….manifestation…. and this strike was repeated in the last 2 weeks with slow-downs of rail service throughout France. French workers are not afraid to strike…. but where else but at the Bastille. …..But back to the gardens….

Promenade Plantée

i love the angular wall of green textures….. before I arrive at the tunnels of the next section…


It is groomed as a sunlit “wild” forest with canopied layerings of leaves….a “tunneled walkway”and…


the effect of a wild forest…unlandscaped… is so real and welcoming in the middle of the Paris cityscape.

Promenade Plantée

The ivy cover and cools of the various greens are so inviting. An “overlook” stairway is for “just viewing” the leaves!


The shade is luxurious…..


and then it opens up to a final section of a more landscaped garden…There’s more…., but…. just for something completely different to end this blogpost, how about the Musée Rodin ?

Musée Rodin

“The Thinker” is thinking about it, but I think we should…..

Musée Rodin

It’s so formal, manicured, peaceful and calm as a complement to Rodin’s vision of the human form.

Musée Rodin

It would be impossible to sit and paint onsite peaceably with so many people trying to take photos with him. Painting him later, I rearranged the roses to frame him better, choosing a profile view which “reads” better….

Jardin du Musée Rodin

 The dome of the Invalides peeks out behind “The Thinker.” At least he will always smell the roses. Voulez-vous promenader dans beaucoup des jardins parisiens.……  Mais, oui, d’accord! …..He doesn’t have to think about it!




Meet the Pigeons! G-a-r-d-e-n-h-o-p-p-i-n-g Parisienne …..


Sunny! Perfect for Pigeons to have elegant perches, catching a few rays! I revisited the Palais-Royal after I my first visit was thwarted by “Fermé,” closed for an art installation….




Gray…   : (


Sunny……! ……….Gray……,   Sunny…….,  Gray……..,   Sunny ……….  all day….

Jardin du Palais-Royal

It was a cloudy, sunny and also an almost rainy day in rotation a few weeks ago, but I actually sat and painted this watercolor at the Jardin du Palais-Royal and by late day, the sun won out! The problem was do I paint it sunny (warmer colors) or cooler-grayer and tried to stay in middle! Ideal time for 2 paintings and switching back and forth!!!!! Pigeons make a home on many a head of a statue….and defy making a “Dignified” shephard and his goat. The storied past of this garden where royalty lived and the 18th c. Rococo aristocrats and Revolutionary Enlightenment intellectuals intermingled and schemed is legendary and you walk in their footsteps…. Buildings peek in everywhere when painting French gardens, and this Palais-Royal facade had gorgeous neutrals and geometry….
and to provide contrast the roses of course…..


The shepherd’s friend sitting further down has his own pigeon. I noticed that the statues at the Jardin du Luxembourg, such as the Reines de France (Queens),  solve the problem with long metal needles placed into the tops of their heads….. not here though…Though charming perches for Paris pigeons…, Pidgeon “Poo” does’t look very good on them!

Suare Vert Galant on Ile de la Cite

Another iconic garden in the literal center of Partis I loved is the “trop petit” postage stamp of a triangular park at the front tip of Ile de la Cite by the Pont Neuf…..


with an equestrian Statue of France’s King Henry IV (late Renaissance) above it…..
his royal policies resulted in great civic improvement and added physical beauty to Paris.

Sq-Vert-Galant-Henry-IV-Sketch by :Lois Bender

..quick studies revealed there were no pigeons sitting on Henry IV’s head…..
no doubt due to is royal powers, I’m sure….

Square Vert Galant + Henru IV Statue

I seemed to have made Henri IV into a giant lording over His Paris with a sky of white clouds to roam in. It seems once you start painting clouds in Paris, you can’t stop!


I went up to where Henry permanently reigns and saw the view below of this triangle where you see both sides of the island and the bateaux-mouches’ depot— the angle was irresistible.

Square Vert Galant on Ile de la Cite

and jarring but an interesting point of view always catches my eye…..


A Panorama with The Louvre on the Right Bank…. Padlocks professing love abound
everywhere on Paris’ bridges, as well here….


No Pidgeons!


And always The Tuileries invite a memorable walk… Especially when heading to the fabulous Libraire de Jardin, Garden Bookstore, at the other end of Les Tuileries near La Place de la Concorde. The bookstore’s present site was once the home of the famous legendary French Landscape Architect of Versailles, Vaux Le Vicomte, etc., Andre Le Notre (1613-1700)….It’s marked with his commemorative statue…………I took this photo 2 years ago in the cold freezing June of 2012 and decided to paint its panoramic view with this year’s flowers….. why not!

Panorama of Jardin des Tuileries

Clouds and Gardens would be more true to my project’s reality!…
Clouds of Paris! and the Louvre always!


But how about a restful quiet garden?? Like the one at the  Musée Eugene Delacroix which was housed in Delacroix’s studio and garden of his later years. I took a photo from a window within his studio of his garden… I got chills thinking I was in the very beautifully skylighted studio where he created his work!

Jardin de la Musee Delacroix

I sat in the garden on site and did this hoping I could catch the feeling quickly…. and wanted to do more variations of colors… so I did a few more back at the studio I have in Camac…

Jardin de la Musee Delacroix

Stressing the lavender and green palette… There’s no one way to see color! …..
Neutral taupes can go many ways!  Blue-er here!


But looking out of  the studio window of Delacroix brought me back to thinking about my studio window of my temporary studio at Camac and the beautiful view…. I took so many photos of the sky colors, clouds and lighting effects! Look at the amazing evening golden light colors with a dark cloudy overcast sky….such drama!

The House at CAMAC, Marnay-sure-Seine

It’s like doing a combo -lighting of night and day in 1 painting!
(Magritte did one…now at Moma!)

Sunset at Camac from my window

 Sunsets are now at 9:45 pm !!!!  Sparkling golden light on the stone….. Such long days and so much daylight is amazing to have as an artist…. With sunrise at around 5 am, it’s practically 17 hours of daylight at the summer solstice! June 21 tomorrow! Giverny and More ….G-a-r-d-e-n-h-o-p-p-i-n-g…. to come! Happy Solstice from Paris and near Paris …. avec beaucoup, beaucoup des couchers de Soleil beaux de Marnay-sur-Seine! ……..À la prochaine !

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