What You Don’t Know about Impressionism
Hundreds of artists frequented Giverny during the time that Monet maintained his studio and residence there during the height of Impressionism. Some were good friends with the famous Impressionist. Some were hoping to meet him and perhaps learn from and paint with him. Others were simply inspired by the landscape of the area.
When we were researching the Giverny Colony, we found artists with diverse and intriguing backgrounds, all dedicated to their work. It is fascinating to see the same landscape subjects painted by so many different artists. One of the most interesting to us is Czech artist, Václav Radimsky (1867 – 1946), born in the town of Kolin, on the Elbe river in central Bohemia. The river played a big part in Radimsky’s childhood. His father, the mayor of Kolin, owned a mill on the river. Radimky would be drawn to rivers and mills throughout his life.
He left his home to study art in Vienna, Munich, and ultimately France where he pursued his work at the Ecole des Beaux Arts. In Paris he was helped by the Czech painter Zdenka Braunerova who introduced him to many of the young French painters. Radimsky was also introduced to the village of Barbizon where he became a close friend of Paul Cézanne and met the others leading the way in Impressionism. It is thought that the two shared studio space in Paris and that Cézanne introduced Radimsky to his friend, Claude Monet.
Radimsky would go on to receive much recognition for his work – gold medals in Rouen in 1895 and the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1900 among others. He exhibited at the Paris salon and throughout Europe, often returning to visit family and exhibit paintings in Bohemia. Radimsky lived in France for twenty-eight years, settling with his French wife, Louise Fromont, near Giverny in the hamlet of Goulet. There Radimsky purchased an old mill, called The Bergamot, for his home and studio on the river Seine. Like his friend Monet, he also had a “floating studio” built so that he could paint on the river.
He was arrested after the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 as a citizen of an enemy country and put in a French prison. He was released due to the intervention of influential friends, including the prominent statesman and future Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau, who was a collector of Impressionism and his work. Disenchanted, he left France, returning to Bohemia and to Kolin to paint the Elbe Valley for the remainder of his life.
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–John and Ann