The ‘genius loci’ of Etretat ispires art

The Etretat gardens sit on top of the cliffs overlooking the famous rock-arch La Falaise d’Avale of the Etretat coast in Normandy, that ispired painters like Claude Monet. The spirit of the place impressed Madame Thebault, a famous french actress, that owned Villa Roxelane. In 1905 she planted the first tree on one of the cliffs of Etretat, and that was the beginning of the garden. She was a good friend of Claude Monet who came regularly to Etretat to paint. Inspired by famous Etretat cliffs, Claude Monet created his painting series “Les Falaises à Étretat”. He inspired Madame Thebault to create an avant-garde garden in this idyllic spot on the clifftop. Nowadays the garden has been revived as a symbol of man’s ability to follow nature, creating a connection between art, topiary and history.

Renowned landscape architect Alexandre Grivko redesigned the garden, using the vegetation to create magnificent living sculptures and topiary, given another dimension with a display of Modern Art in the gardens. The unique collection of contemporary art, skillfully incorporated into the Garden, shows off the space through the prism of art, opening new meanings and ways to perceive the world. The garden has different areas in depending of the work of art and species of plants. At the Garden of Emotions, the plant Enkianthus japonicas and Buxus sempervirens have been cut to represent shells of mollusks, recreated in honor of Etretat’s oyster farm, well-known since the 18th Century. The impression is complemented by unique rubber sculptures made by Spanish artist Samuel Salcedo, depicting faces of people experiencing an intense range of emotions. The Garden of Elements symbolises the movement of the ocean. The images of  waves and whirlpools have been skillfully sculpted from Phillyrea angustifolia shrubs to rise in waves or descend in spirals, framed by blue Agapanthus africanus with the most spectacular view of the Aval Cliff and the famous needle protruding from the ocean. Polish artist Wiktor Szostalo  installed at the Garden of Elements a monument to the impressionist who is working on the famous paysage. He created a sculpture of Claude Monet painting the sunset at Etretat. The artist appears to be looking on from a huge ship and painting the ocean with large strokes. A compositions of Taxus baccata, in the form of half-arches, introduces to the Garden of Sounds of nature, with surrounded by white rhododendrons, where russian artist Sergey Catran installed hanging terracotta sculptures that produces echoes. Intertwined are the roots of century-old trees with plants like Holly ilex aquifolium, Osmanthus burkwoodii and Osmanthus heterophillus.  The founder of the garden, Madame Thébault assembled rare species of orchids that symbolized concubines in sultan Suleiman’s harem, where every “flower-concubine” expressed its special beauty and temper. Nowadays the whole of Madame Thébault’s orchids collection is still nurtered in the garden.


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