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Picturing a World

Mary Fairchild MacMonnies at Giverny

In 1895, two married, successful artists, Frederick and Mary Fairchild MacMonnies, bought an old priory in the town of Giverny, where Claude Monet was the reigning artistic deity. High walls enclosed their house, studios, and a terraced garden, which became a center of activity for the American art colony drawn to Giverny.

A frequent visitor was Will Hicok Low. During my research, I read his amusing and generous-hearted book A Chronicle of Friendships (1908) with pleasure. To see one of his paintings of the MacMonnies’ garden, click here. For one of her garden paintings, click here.

A nursery for the MacMonnies children with Mary’s copies of murals by Puvis de Chavannes on the back wall exemplifies the MacMonnies’ way of making their home as ideal a world as possible. Unfortunately, Frederick had affairs with his female students. In 1909, Mary divorced him—but then married the recently widowed Low. In 1910, with her children, she moved to Bronxville, N. Y., where Low had his studio.

I’m beginning to think Jeanette and her household might spend a summer at Giverny, where a love triangle among some imaginary artists could provide the foreground action. Cousin Effie might visit. Any thoughts?
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