Monet’s house & garden: directing Francophile passion beyond indulgence

RIP Helen Rappel Bordman.
It is with enormous sadness that I learned from Aileen Bordman about the passing of her mother on 24 April 2020, Helen Rappel Bordman, in her home in New Jersey, USA.

Aileen and I had been in discussion about an interview with and due to this, her mother Helen Rappel Bordman had been very much on my mind. I wanted to interview Aileen about her life, views, experiences, and achievements and clearly, her mother was a strong influence through that life.

I was and still am interested to understand how the offspring of committed passionate Francophiles react to the influence of years of living with their parents’ passion and how it influences their lives.

Helen Rappel Bordman: an extraordinarily inspiring woman.

Helen Rappel Bordman is an example to us all of how we could, with intent and commitment, harness our passion for France.

A lesson in how we can direct our Francophilia beyond indulgence toward generosity, contributing to France, and making a difference for others!

I for one take up that challenge!

Helen Bordman has for the last 40+ years of her life been instrumental in the restoration and management of Monet’s house and garden in Giverny, it became her second home. She lived and worked there every year.

She was the Founder of the substantial Volunteer Program.

“Helen’s journey started with a recommendation from Lila Acheson Wallace to Florence and Gerald Van der Kemp. It wasn’t until 1977 that Gerald Van der Kemp, who restored Versailles, decided to work on Giverny. A large part of it was restored with gifts from U.S. benefactors, especially the late Lila Acheson Wallace, former head of Reader’s Digest. Florence Van der Kemp’s dedication to Giverny inspired my mother to work throughout the year not just when she was in residence at Monet’s home to do all she could to make the Museum what it is today.” said Aileen.

So as to understand the significance of this work it’s important to look at a few facts.

  • The house and garden of Claude Monet in Giverny is Normandy’s second most popular tourist destination after Mont Saint-Michel.
  • Annually, more than 500,000 visitors [530,000 in 2010] come to immerse themselves in its exquisite beauty.

In 2017, Helen Bordman‘s efforts were recognised by the French Government and she was awarded the rank of ‘Chevalier’ member of the ‘Ordre des Arts et des Lettres

And now let’s learn more of this devotion…

On 6 May, 2009 Aileen Bordman wrote of her mother, Helen Bordman:
“This year marks her 30th year of dedication to the Museum and Foundation. Helen’s journey started with a recommendation from Lila Achenson Wallace to Florence and Gerald Van der Kemp…”

“…Amazing people like Claudette Lindsay and Laurent Echaubard at the Museum helped to foster and inspire the dedication and spirit my mother possesses. Additionally, since these very early days my mother has helped to raise the funds to grow and maintain Claude Monet’s Home and Gardens. In fact, visitors who met her in the gardens would occasionally donate to the Foundation every year just because she inspired them.

Additionally, as the head of the volunteer program spending each Spring for the past 30 in Giverny, she has welcomed visitors to Monet’s oasis. Each year students and people with special skills like gardening would be part of the annual Volunteer program which to this day is continuing. Guests at the Museum through the years have included many diplomats and celebrities including Prince Charles, Gregory Peck, Audrey Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, Tony Bennett, Steve Wynn, Hillary Clinton, Barbara Streisand, Kirk Douglas, Bette Midler, Louis Jourdan, oh my the list just goes on and on. Of course, the most important guests are all the adults and children who come from every country and continent in the world to witness the beauty of Monet’s creation…the gardens and home in Giverny.

[There is a] plaque [which] honors my mother’s work at Fondation Claude Monet which still welcomes donations to help support Monet in Giverny. Lastly, to quote Bonnie Lautenberg ..Senator Frank Lautenberg’s wife to whom I spoke with last week ” Your Mother is so full of life and energy” “she truly represents America in France with her good work in Giverny”

All I can say is Bravo Helen Bordman you are truly an inspiration and I know your love for Monet and his home continues as always with the same passion you had in the early years. I am so proud of you.”

Wonderful words from Aileen, recognising the work and devotion of her mother.

Here you can enjoy a virtual visit of Monet’s House.

It is also important to know that La Fondation… remains open to donations. I urge all Francophiles to consider such a donation in honour of Helen Rappel Bordman. See below for particulars.

And what of the Francophile influence on the daughter?

On April 22 this year, whilst preparing for my interview with Aileen, I posed a question to the membership of our private MyFrenchLife Community group on Facebook – it went something like this…

“If you are a parent – is your daughter/son a Francophile too? How does she/he react to your passion for France? I’m seeking reactions of offspring positive and negative.”

Well, to say I was swamped is an understatement; swamped with stories which were overwhelmingly positive and all of which are fascinating. Please share your stories with us, either in the private community Facebook Group, the comments below or on twitter at @maviefrancaise or Instagram at @maviefrancaise

Now, let’s get back to how Aileen has reacted to her mother’s incredible devotion and overwhelming impact on a famous tourism monument in France.

I don’t know the story (yet) of Aileen’s earlier life in relation to this question, but I do know the more recent manifestation.

In recent years, Aileen Bordman launched a modern lifestyle brand ‘Monet’s Palate’ as a homage to her mother’s work in Giverny.

“‘Monet’s Palate’ celebrates Claude Monet’s world of art, cuisine, gardens and entertaining. A world where you will walk in the footsteps of Claude Monet; his gardens, his art, his love of food and drink and passion for entertaining.” states

Since creating ‘Monet’s Palate’ Eileen has published two books and a film and announced a collaboration with a master perfumer to launch a perfume and a candle under the brand.

I recommend you seek these out.

The books

Everyday Monet

Aileen has captured the essence of Giverny in the beautiful text and photography of Everyday Monet.

Meryl Streep

Everyday Monet: A Giverny-Inspired Gardening and Lifestyle Guide to Living Your Best Impressionist Life.

Bring Monet’s paintings and gardens to life using this gorgeously illustrated book that will teach you how to create a Monet lifestyle from your living room to your kitchen to your garden.

Monet’s Palate Cookbook

“Monet’s Palate Cookbook provides all the inspiration anyone needs to go out and dig, plant, absorb the joys that soil offers each of us. Whether a garden novice or seasoned expert, this book offers a wealth of advice and recipes destined to improve all of our lives.” – Patricia Wells, Vegetable Harvest

“For the first time in history, Monet’s Palate Cookbook: The Artist & His Kitchen Garden at Giverny brings Claude Monet’s beloved kitchen garden back to life. Written by filmmaker Aileen Bordman, and garden writer Derek Fell, the book includes sixty recipes linked to Monet’s two-acre kitchen garden near his home at Giverny, France. Included is detailed information about the vegetables he grew, plus photographs and descriptions of the house interiors and gardens capturing Monet’s extraordinary lifestyle. Meryl Streep has written the Foreword and the recipes are beautifully photographed by Steven Rothfeld.” states Monet’s Palate website.

The Film

In addition, there is a delightful film:
“Watching the film “Monet’s Palate”, with narration by Meryl Streep, you will embark on a culinary tour of Claude Monet’s beloved Normandy… A region of France just north of Paris along the Seine River. This region inspired Monet’s passion for art and his passion for fine cuisine. Both of Monet’s palates met at this home in Giverny surrounded by his beautiful gardens…”

The fragrance & the candle

It is a ‘collaboration of masters’ which has created the first fragrance and candle in the Monet’s Palate collection.

“Created through the collaboration of two skilled artists – Master Painter, Claude Monet and Master Perfumer, Nathalie Lorson lead to an outstanding Eau de Parfum & candle that has brought Claude Monet’s renowned painting of The Garden at Giverny to life.” read more.

I wasn’t familiar with the work of nose, Natali Lorson, and thought you may also appreciate an introduction:

“Nathalie grew up in Grasse, where her father was a chemist at the fragrance house Roure. She’s something of a pioneer: ‘In 1980,’ she recalls, ‘very few women entered the perfumery field.’

Nathalie’s ‘signature’ is obvious in her choice of raw materials: round, smooth and sensual. Her many dozens of creations include Lalique AmethystEncre NoireFlora by GucciLe Labo Poivre 23Bentley for MenGucci PremièreKate Moss Kate and Dita Von Teese’s signature scent. She is one of the quartet of perfumers at fragrance house Firmenich who worked on the new YSL Black Opium.” read more on

Inspiration, creativity, & collaboration: a legacy.

Aileen Bordman has clearly been enormously inspired by her mother Helen Rappel Bordman’s huge contribution to France.

In my view, Helen Rappel Bordman not only leaves behind her substantial contribution to Monet’s House and Garden in Giverny but she leaves a living legacy in the work of her daughter Aileen. Aileen’s work in the development of a lifestyle brand devoted to Claude Monet and his way of life is granted different to that of her late mother but she has only just begun! I wait with bated breath to see this legacy grow.

Francophile challenge

As a Francophile, I oft feel that my passion manifests itself as indulgence. The indulgence of immersing myself in all that France has to offer. I have previously challenged myself to find a way of ‘giving-back’. I developed the community of, the website, the French conversation groups, the events, the private groups on facebook etc as my way of contributing. Yet it is not enough. I should be able to contribute more, much more!

So, Aileen I say to you that your mother is my inspiration and I thank her!
I take up the challenge as a Francophile to direct my passion for France beyond indulgence, to find a way of making a deep contribution.

Do you take up the challenge with me as I search for a way to direct my passion for France beyond indulgence?

Donations in honour of Helen Rappel Bordman – please direct to:
Académie des beaux arts
Pour la Fondation Claude Monet
23, quai de Conti 750270 Paris Cedex 06
Tel :+33 (0)1 44 41 43 20

French taxpayers donations are tax-deductible.
(article 200.23810.885-0/10 of General Tax Code).

Image credits
1. Fondation Monet Giverny via Facebook
2. Helen Rappel Bordman via Aileen Bordman
3. Investiture: Ordre des Arts et des Lettres’ via @jacquestorres
4, Everyday Monet and Monet’s Palate Cookbook via
5. ‘Monet’s Palate’ film via Youtube
6. Monet’s Palate Fragrance & Candle’ via
7. Helen Bordman via Aileen Bordman

About the Contributor

Judy MacMahon

Experience FRANCE beyond the CLICHÉ with MyFrenchLife is for Curious Savvy Francophiles wherever you are. Meet Francophiles in France, online, and/or wherever you live. You’re very welcome to join us - Judy MacMahon -

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