An ordinary person's thoughts on the complexities of art & life ...

An ordinary person's thoughts on the complexities of life ... or just ramblings from the mind of a working Mum with far too little time to think!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Monet's Garden

"More than anything, I must have flowers, always, always."

Claude Oscar Monet was perhaps the greatest contributor to Impressionist painting. His artworks showed a masterful use of colour and explored a large range of subjects, but he is best known and loved for his magnificent waterscapes and floral landscapes.
His passion in the 1890's was the creation of his gardens at the house he purchased in Giverny. He designed and built an elaborate water garden as well as a flower garden, both of which have been immortalised in over 500 paintings. "My garden is my most beautiful masterpiece," he once famously said, "Everything I have earned has gone into these gardens."
His very extensive gardens incorporated every shade of colour and variety of bloom ~ a painter's palette of flowers.

Later he added an arched Japanese style bridge which he built himself at one end of the pond, and which proved to be an endless source of inspiration for many of his paintings at that time. Water lilies were his favourite flower subjects and he painted them often as light filled blooms against a world of blue and green, a surreal sea of colour broken by the intricacy of the delicate flowers.

To achieve the characteristic play of light and colour in his work, Monet painted with a broad brush and applied layer upon layer of colour, sometimes as many as fifteen or twenty layers. He varied his brushstrokes to get the different shadows and textures and used colour to produce the highlights that make his paintings so distinctive.

I still remember with great clarity the very first time I stood in a gallery and gazed in awe upon an 'original' Monet painting. The Indianapolis Museum of Art had as part of its collection of European Painting and Sculpture, a swirly, moody oil painting of Monet's ~ 'Charing Cross Bridge'. The painting reflects Monet's fascination with the dense fog of London, capturing the city buildings along the Thames River and the railway bridge dissolving into shifting veils of rose, blue and violet fog. Close up, the painting is filled with radiant dabs of many hued paints. However, as I stepped back and looked again at the painting, the individual colours all swirled together in graceful curls and I could actually feel the glowing haze of the English fog.

Like Monet, I am fascinated with flowers and the natural world, but unlike Monet, regrettably, I cannot paint. I have tried to recreate his play on light, colour and texture in my macro photography work by utilising a very shallow depth of field and harnessing the natural, ambient light to diffuse the colours into a soft, surreal, scape with only a small area of sharp detail to provide a focal point for the eye. However, it is a constant learning process and I have much yet to explore.

If you have not already discovered the magnificent breadth of Monet's work, I urge you to do some exploring at your local library or art gallery, and perhaps even take a trip to the Musee de l'Orangerie in Paris where a set of Claude Monet's large canvases depicting water lilies are displayed on the walls of two oval rooms that are completely covered by the works, allowing the unique experience of being incapsulated by the nature that inspired Monet.

"Everyone discusses my art and pretends to understand it as if it were necessary to understand, when it is simply necessary to love." ~ Claude Monet

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