Thursday, July 28, 2011


When I first saw the massive triptych of water lilies by Claude Monet at the Musuem of Modern Art, I was stunned by the power and beauty of the paintings. They depict an image of nature, but are also painterly and abstract. They are the perfect median between realism and abstraction. To view them is a transcendent experience and emphasizes how beautiful nature and life can be.

Monet was the founder of French impressionist painting, and the most consistent and prolific of the artists who worked in this style. He moved to Paris in the 1860s and witnessed painters copying from old masters, but he decided to paint what he saw from his own environment. Along with Renoir and others he explored this new approach to painting with broken color and rapid brushstrokes. His painting Impression, Sunrise (1872) gave the movement its name.

During the early 1880s, Monet painted several groups of landscapes in an effort to document the French countryside, and he started to make paintings in series, often doing the same subject in different light at various times of day. These series included Haystacks, the Rouen Cathedral, Poplars, Parliament, and of course later Water Lilies.

In 1883, Monet and his large family moved to Giverny. There was a barn that doubled as a painting studio. The surrounding landscape offered many motifs for Monet's work including the water lilies, the bridge, and the pond. Giverny became his home for the rest of his life but at times he would travel to the Mediterranean, Italy, and London and paint scenes from these places. 

Monet wrote daily instructions for his gardener for precise designs and over time his garden evolved with himself as the architect. His later work became more abstract and defuse and this may have been because of vision problems, yet for me these are some of his most beautiful paintings.

Claude Monet lived until 1926 and died at the age of 86. He created one of the most beautiful and vivid bodies of work as any painter in history.

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