Morning with Monet

Claude Monet ~ Impression, Sunrise

Highlighted by savvy museum curators and hawked within an inch of their beautiful lives by mass-market retailers, the French Impressionists remain popular painters. Once derided and criticized, their landscapes, serial studies, and portraits have become as pleasing to the art establishment as to ordinary people seeking a pretty picture for their wall. It’s easy to imagine Messrs. Monet, Renoir,  Degas, and Cézanne sitting around the heavenly atelier, watching light play over the clouds and congratulating themselves on their remarkable staying power.

Less concerned with realistic form than with natural light, atmosphere, and color, Impressionists sought to paint the world as they perceived it rather than in accordance with conceptual guidelines. In a brief overview of the movement, the Metropolitan Museum of Art notes:

Claude Monet’s Impression, Sunrise (Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris), exhibited in 1874, gave the Impressionist movement its name when the critic Louis Leroy accused it of being a sketch or “impression,” and not a finished painting.
It demonstrates the techniques many of the independent artists adopted: short, broken brushstrokes that barely convey forms, pure unblended colors, and an emphasis on the effects of light. Rather than neutral white, grays, and blacks, Impressionists often rendered shadows and highlights in color. The artists’ loose brushwork gives an effect of spontaneity and effortlessness that masks their often carefully constructed compositions.

 Traditional landscape artists tended to depict the individual phenomena of the natural world – leaves, blossoms, blades of grass – as carefully as an illustrator, and with an eye to accuracy. Monet was more concerned with painting what he saw ~ not separate leaves or discrete blossoms, but splashes of constantly changing color and light.

According to William Seitz, art historian and author of the Monet volume for the Masters of Art series:

It is in this context that we must understand his desire to see the world through the eyes of a man born blind who had suddenly gained his sight: as a pattern of nameless color patches.

Reading Seitz’s words, I can’t help wondering if he knew of Marius von Senden’s 1932 study called Space and Sight. Quoted extensively in Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, von Senden had collected stories of men and women blind since birth who regained their sight with newly available cataract surgery. For most, it was a difficult transition, full of necessary learning. As von Senden puts it, for the newly sighted, “Space ends with visual space…with color patches that happen to bound his view.”

Beginning with Manet, the idea of ‘color patches’ was integral to the development of the Impressionist vision; it’s possible that von Senden picked up the phrase from the painters themselves. In any event, it’s easy to imagine a painter like Monet roaming the countryside with his easel and palette, painting whatever he happened upon and in the process giving us a record of the world informed by these new techniques and his unique vision.

In his bookThe Impressionist Garden, Derek Fell notes the Impressionists’ commitment to “capture and record the fleeting moment” through their brushstrokes. Perhaps the development of photography and the new ability to take ‘snapshots’ influenced their thinking. The phrase “fleeting moment” certainly recalls photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson’s famous commitment to his own ‘decisive moment.’ Whether Monet’s reflections on his art were known to Bresson I can’t say, but the lives of Monet (d.1926) and Bresson (b.1908) briefly overlapped; they experienced the same technological advances and no doubt shared some of the same artistic concerns.

Monet’s Garden at Giverny

In 1883, Claude Monet moved to Giverny, and began to develop his garden. In the process, nothing escaped his attention. As avid a gardener as a painter, his legacy still lives in the water-lily ponds, wisteria-clad Japanese bridge, and grand central allée strewn with nasturtiums; the collection of paths and beds in the walled Clos Normand, the large, traditional Normandy flower garden just outside the house, is equally lovely. When Monet acquired the old farmhouse in 1890, he sacrified an old and tired orchard in order to plant new gardens and install the custom-designed metal hoops and pergolas that carried his roses and clematis.

Eventually, he turned his attention to the water garden. He rerouted a river, selected hybrid water lilies for their color, and designed his bridge in a deliberate act of creation. An artist creating his own subject, he left nothing to chance. Renoir built a glass-walled studio in his garden in order to paint his beloved olive trees, but Monet commissioned a studio boat, the better to paint his water lilies.

Claude Monet ~ Le Bateau-atelier 1876

“Apart from painting and gardening, I’m not good at anything,” Monet once remarked. Amusing self-deprecation aside, his talents in both areas resulted in the creation of the garden at Giverny. Composed as if it were a painting, and over time the subject of much of his best work, it is considered by many painters and gardeners to be his greatest legacy – as beautiful, inspirational, and pervasive in its later influence as it was for Monet himself.

Until a trip to Mississippi some years ago, I hadn’t fully appreciated the significance of Monet’s double role in shaping our vision of the world. Despite my affection for his paintings, I’d never considered the possibility that his gardens, and his interpretation of them, might one day shape my own experience of the land.

Turning down a gravel road in the midst of the old Doro Plantation, halfway betweeen a clapboard house flying the Confederate flag and a cluster of fishing shacks moored along the levee, I discovered a landscape so purely Impressionistic it was hard to believe it wasn’t already on canvas. Rippling curtains of white and lavender wisteria hung everywhere, recalling Giverny.  A multitude of greens sprouted from bushes and trees, and the grasses were filled with glowing purple and pink spiderworts. Scrambling across barbed wire and piles of fallen brush into a pecan orchard, I found my footing and looked up in astonishment.

It wasn’t that the orchard reminded me of Monet, it was as though Monet himself already had been there: dappling the leaves with light, capturing the pristine translucence of new growth, and washing the world’s canvas with a sheen of unnameable colors. I’d have been less astonished had I walked into Monet’s studio and discovered the canvases suddenly come to life,  or walked into his garden and surprised him painting a few new shrubs into place.

In Giverny, Monet constructed a garden for himself. That day on the Doro Plantation, where accidents of nature and history had rerouted the Mississippi, reshaped the land, and left a secret, unexpected collection of trees, flowers, and grasses to shimmer in the springtime light, the only thing missing was the artist himself: recording the miraculous beauty of a world akin to the gardens he had grown.

Looking at the photographs today, I remember those unexpected bits of beauty tucked away into the silence of a Mississippi morning.

Seeing the play of light, imagining the warming breeze, and re-experiencing those first, memorable impressions, I realize an unexpected truth. For a few moments, I had seen the world as Claude Monet saw it: tumbled into light and patched with color so piercingly pure no response beyond a sigh is possible. For the first time, I appreciated the enormity of what Monet spent a lifetime revealing: that brushes, paint, and canvas are sufficient to capture our first impressions of the world, and to provide a lifetime of enjoyment in the process.


Comments always are welcome.

99 thoughts on “Morning with Monet

  1. Yes, and for those with the right eyes and keenness to find and discover, Monet’s worlds are not bound by borders or nationalities. Nice of you to remind us to see and take joy of nature’s gifts still in abundance.
    We have booked the bus to our National Gallery in Canberra to see the Van Gogh and Botticelli exhibition on the 30th of April.

    1. What a wonderful opportunity for you. When I looked at the Canberra museum’s page to find more information about the exhibit, I was pleased to see one of my favorite sunflower paintings featured. I wish I could be there to see it with you. Seeing an actual painting is a much different experience than seeing a photo of a painting online, just as seeing a landscape in person is a different (albeit complementary) experience from seeing either a photo or a painting.

    1. It was special, and quite unexpected. The element of surprise always adds a little something to an experience. Surprises aren’t always good, of course, but they often are; being surprised is one of the best things about wandering about in nature.

  2. Your post reminds me of Alain de Botton’s book, The Art of Travel, in which he explores in depth the way great art can enrich our travel experiences in ways such as you describe here. If you hadn’t known anything of Monet, your visit to that beautiful orchard with its colors and textures would have been much less than it was.

    1. That’s right, and it’s one reason that broad exposure to the whole range of art, literature, and music is so important. The Western canon is dismissed by many educators today, and the meaning of a liberal education has changed considerably, but I’m infinitely grateful for the teachers and life experience that allowed me to see Monet in Mississippi. It’s a different way of seeing a world in a grain of sand.

    1. I’m delighted that I could show you something new, Derrick. As for the writing, it can be immensely difficult to communicate experience of any sort in words that go beyond simple reporting, but it’s always worth the effort.

    1. I’m often reminded of Annie Dillard’s words, directed toward writers but applicable in a variety of contexts: “[The writer] is careful of what he reads, for that is what he will write. He is careful of what he learns, because that is what he will know.” I’ve always thought that applies visually as well, both for painters and photographers.

      That’s not an argument for exclusion; it’s a reminder that the programmers were right. Garbage in, garbage out. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with a steady diet of internet memes, but a willingness to taste the best of what people like Monet have offered never hurts.

      1. Have you ever been to the art museum in Milwaukee? It’s an amazing feat of architecture, for a start, and has some nice Impressionist works (Monet, Degas). And also one of the biggest collections of Georgia O’Keeffe, who I know you also admire.

  3. Yes, you did see through the eyes of a painter, Linda. I admire photographers for their ability to see that which most of us walk past.

    1. It’s attention that makes the difference, I think. I’ve seen people walking down boardwalks at nature centers with their camera phones held out at arm’s length, snapping away. They end up with photos to prove they were in the spot, but did that make them a photographer? Only in the most basic sense.

      I’ve seen the same phenomenon in museums. The space in front of a well-known painting often is filled with smartphone-bearing visitors snapping away, without ever really looking at the painting itself. Consuming art isn’t quite the same as appreciating art!

  4. When we spent some days in Paris close to a quarter of a century ago we visited the Musée Marmottan, which I hadn’t heard of till I did research in advance of the trip. It’s noticeably smaller than the Louvre (well, that’s true of most other museums, isn’t it?), but well worth the visit. It houses the painting you mentioned that ended up giving a name to the Impressionists, along with some of the giant paintings of the water lilies at Giverny. I didn’t realize (or had forgotten) till I checked the museum’s website just now that it also owns Giverny, thanks to a bequest from Monet’s son Michel. You’re unique in bequeathing to us a comparison of the place to one in Mississippi. Doro could be a French play on words meaning “Of gold, oh.”

    1. That’s a creative bit of playing you did with Doro. My impulsive turn down to the levee provided a golden opportunity to see a bit of countryside I otherwise would have missed. I didn’t realize that the Musée Marmottan owns Giverny; that’s a happy pairing. Your mention of its size brought Crystal Bridges to mind. Large museums have their place — not to mention their budgets and staff — but the smaller ones often seem more approachable to me.

  5. Linda, I love this post as much if not more than anything you have ever written. Partly, of course, because I love Monet’s work and that period so I always appreciate insight into the artist and master gardener and you do that so well. But you also bring up something so critical and vital — Monet’s world can be all around us if and when we take the time to look and consider that.

    I’ve seen his impressionism when I look at the barely visible rowboat and dock in front of my cottage on a morning when the fog is so thick, one can barely see beyond the end of the dock. I’ve seen it when I drive past fields in autumn when the light is just right and hay is rolled into large “marshmallows,” sitting apart on the fields and golden in the sunset. And you have seen it in this Mississippi place filled with color and light. I assume you have seen “Sunday in the Park with George” and are familiar with the song “Color and Light.” Even though it’s about Seurat, there is so much that resonates with Monet’s art. (And “Finishing the Hat). Both are on youtube.

    This is just the best way to start the morning.

    1. You’ve just echoed Georgia O’Keeffe’s famous entreaty that lives on my refrigerator in the form of a magnet: “Take time to look.” Just looking’s good enough, too. We don’t have to always be looking for ‘this’ or ‘that’ — sometimes we’ll find things that are unexpected, improbable, and even confusing. Those are the best.

      To be honest, I hadn’t heard of Sunday in the Park with George, or the song. Broadway and musicals weren’t high on my list of things to pay attention to when the show came out, so I’m glad you mentioned it. What I have always loved is the way a Wisconsin town replicated Seurat’s painting in real life. That obviously was worlds of fun both for the photographer and for the townspeople!

  6. Until the invention and wide-spread use of the camera, painters were the ones who taught our eyes how to see reality — they taught detail, composition, perspective, and color. Following the widespread use of photography it was again painters like Monet and the impressionists who retaught our eyes to see the mass of color, the rhythm of shape, and what details are truly essential to the eye to know what it sees.

    1. When I read photographers’ and painters’ comments about their arts, I’m always intrigued by the similarities in their perspectives. Given a quotation without context, it’s not always possible to know with certainty whether a camera-clicker or a brush-wielder was speaking. In truth, I’ve learned as much about writing from photographers as from other writers. I’ve thought about it a good bit, and finally decided it’s the attention-paying that makes the difference.

    1. If you want to paint like Monet, be sure not to get rid of all of your easels, brushes, and paper in the process of sorting out for the great move. Have you ever shown any of your painting on your blog? It would be fun to see some of what you’ve done.

  7. The “spontaneity and effortlessness” of impressionist painters is what drew me into paying attention to art. As a child my mother dragged me into many art museums where I was bored. However once I saw a Monet with those little brush strokes and pretty colors I got more interested in the idea of painting. Having lousy eyesight myself, his way of creating a blurry picture made sense to me.

    1. Having experienced blurry vision prior to getting glasses as a kid and before getting rid of my cataracts, I have a sense of what you experienced. As for the spontaneity and effortlessness, it took me a long time to understand that some intention’s important, too. Whatever Monet did, it was a far more complex process than just throwing some paint at the canvas to see what stuck!

        1. I suspect he would have understood both the humor and the wisdom in the old joke: “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice…”

  8. Painting is very much like photography. Most photos and paintings represent as accurately a slice of the reality of our world. But impressionist paintings and photos as your post so well describe is an emotional response to the wonderful world we live in. Thank you for the early morning inspiration, Linda!

    1. I think both sorts of photography and painting — representation and abstraction — require the same thing of the photographer or artist: engagement. Occasionally, someone will say to me, “You ought to write about [fill in the blank].” But if it’s not a topic that’s interesting to me, and especially if it seems to be boring, I simply pass by. If I’m bored while writing, my readers certainly will be bored. Monet’s engagement with his world’s obvious, and his painting certainly isn’t boring.

  9. I am fortunate that I don’t have to go far to have my own Monet experience in Nature. Do you remember many years ago that you suggested I read, Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, while I was stuck in bed due to a back injury from working in the woods? Not able to wander in the woodlands and along the slough and old river channel, I delighted in Dillard’s descriptive observations of all things nature. Her writing even takes the reader to the unpleasant and sometimes horrific findings along the path – things that aren’t often observed or painted. I’ve read that book a few times since, each time finding the experience exhilarating, just as I am amazed at the works of many famous impressionist painters. The old Doro Plantation was a treasured find for you. Your photographs are beautiful!

    1. I do remember telling you about Dillard’s book. I remember, too, that I thought you’d appreciate it even more than most people, because of your unique situation. You not only have your metaphorical ‘creek,’ you have a willingness to explore, and you take the time to really see what’s out there.

      Like you, I find her willingness to engage with nature on its own terms, including things that we instinctively turn away from, important. When I posted my photo of the beetle impaled on barbed wire by a shrike, several people described the scene as grisly. I suspected there would be some ambivalent reactions, but that beetle and the bird’s habits are a part of nature, too, and we need to understand how all the parts fit together.

      It’s been a while since I’ve been at the Doro plantation, but it’s amazing how the memory still lingers.

    1. That’s quite a compliment, Becky, and one that I appreciate. Painting with words is possible, but it takes skill that I’m still trying to develop. Of course, painters go through the same process. One of the things I love to do is look at sketches made by famous painters early in the process of creating one of their masterpieces. It’s great fun to see their development — Monet’s paintings didn’t spring to life fully formed!

  10. Art history is a big gap in my education & I DID NOT KNOW that Monet had created the gardens that he painted! That makes those paintings even more special. Your experience also sounds really special – I would love to step into a world that looked like one of his paintings.

    1. When I first learned that Monet had a hand in his gardens (both literally and figuratively), the first thing I thought about was the sheer effort it would have taken. I’m impressed by what some of our garden bloggers achieve, even on a smaller scale. I suppose having such a specific purpose for his gardening would have kept him dedicating. I’ve read more about his painting than his gardening, but I’ll bet a book about the garden would be fascinating.

  11. We got to visit Giverny twice – once in April and once in September. We were blown away each time (I did a couple of posts on each visit). I have also read some books on Monet’s garden and life. He was quite an interesting fellow.

    1. I found your series of posts — what an experience for you, and what a treasure for us. I’m going to take time to read through them, and see the garden(s) through your eyes. Is there a particular book about Giverny you’d recommend? I’m feeling the urge to read more about it, and having your recommendation would be better than browsing through Amazon reviews.

  12. How I’d have loved taking some art classes in college, but alas, working two majors, one minor, plus all the extracurricular activities left little time for that. Thank you for showing me a part of what I missed, Linda. These are stunning, especially his Garden at Giverny.

    1. Most of what I know about art I learned after college; I didn’t take any art courses, either. I was lucky enough to have grade school and high school teachers who nurtured our interest in art, and parents who would take me to the museum in Des Moines — with ice cream afterwards! A single painting can be a doorway into an entire world, as Monet’s often are: and thank goodness for that!

  13. I will never hear or read of Monet without remembering a very special day. Our daughter, probably about 4 or 5 years old at the time, pitched an absolute fit one morning when I dropped her at a childcare place so that I could attend an early-morning opening of a massive Monet exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago. She’d never really done that, so I relented and took her along with me. To this day, I can see her mesmerized little face as we walked through the galleries, and for many years afterward, she was obsessed with Monet and, like you, would see his work (well, maybe Impressionism in general) out in nature. A perfect example of what children absorb when we introduce them to the arts … even if it was not our initial intention!

    1. That’s a wonderful story, and one quite similar to a tale Joan Didion told in her book The White Album about a visit to the very same museum. She writes:

      “I recall an August afternoon in Chicago in 1973 when I took my daughter, then seven, to see what Georgia O’Keeffe had done with where she had been. One of the vast O’Keeffe “Sky Above Clouds” canvases floated over the back stairs in the Chicago Art Institute that day, dominating what seemed to be several stories of empty ilght, and my daughter looked at it once, ran to the landing, and kept on look. “Who drew it,” she whispered after a while. I told her. “I need to talk to her,” she said finally.”

      Sometimes it happens in nature. Sometimes it happens in a museum. Wherever it happens, the experience is a treasure.

      1. I haven’t read that Didion book or heard that (very similar) story! I can say that the Art Institute has probably made an impression on quite a few young (and old) minds. It’s a treasure. Then again, my hometown art museums (Carnegie and Scaife in Pittsburgh) will always be with me, too. I guess it’s the art itself (duhhhhh) and its ability to transform the way we see the world.

        1. Even the smallest museum may contain ‘the’ painting that does it. My introduction to art museums came in Des Moines. The museum was small, but to grade-school me it was magical.I still remember my fourth (or fifth?) grade art assignment after a visit: to remember our favorite painting, and create a version of it. I don’t remember the exact painting, but my Renaissance-style madonna was great.

    1. The photo of the pecan grove shimmering in the sunlight actually managed to capture a bit of the real sight. I wasn’t at all experienced as a photographer at the time, so it was luck as much as anything, but luck will do.

  14. I loved how you moved us from impressionist art to impressionist life in Mississippi. Well done, Linda. I used to sit for hours at the MoMa in front of Water Lilies soaking up the genius of Monet.

  15. It’s amazing how hard it is to step back and just see what’s in front of us without imposing a preconceived template on our experience. We love the view from our neighbor’s property because we’ve become so familiar with the view from our own that we seldom really “see” it anymore.

    1. The same thing can happen with all of our senses. Friends can tell when I’ve been carrying open varnish in my car’s trunk; I never notice it. And even though I love hearing my grandmother clock chime four times an hour, I rarely hear it – even when it’s striking 10, 11, or 12 times. I’m perfectly capable of becoming blind to dust, too. I once had a friend who took up the habit of writing his name in the dust around my place from time to time. That wouldn’t have been so bad, but he added the date.

  16. I love art. I can get lost for hours in our local gallery, The Gibbes. Heaven help me if I was ever to get inside someplace like the National Gallery of Art. I might disappear for good!

    I enjoy almost all of it. I thoroughly enjoyed Sister Wendy’s art lectures on PBS. I have to say, though, that the Impressionists’ paintings are up there on my list of favorites. The color! The light!

    I have a reproduction of one of Monet’s water lily paintings in my bathroom.

    If you like the French Impressionists, you might like one of our local artists: Alice Huger Ravenel Smith. She was one of the top Charleston Renaissance artists. Her watercolors of local scenes are lovely.

    1. It was interesting reading about your local artist. When I scrolled through images of her work, some pieces reminded me of another artist, but I’ve done some searching and just can’t turn it up. This one really appeals, and there are several others done in the same style that I’d love to see in person. It was interesting to read about the Charleston Renaissance, too. I had no idea! Clearly, I need to visit your part of the world one day, as well as learning more about it.

  17. I, too, have an affection for Monet’s paintings. Enjoyed this blog post and your photos —fascinatingly attractive as are your observations.

    1. Thanks so much. I’ve noticed that Monet and others of the Impressionists often evoke feelings of affection as well as admiration or critical appreciation. I’m not sure why that is — simply being ‘pretty doesn’t explain it — but I share that affection.

  18. Just lovely, thank you. But it is the ‘studio boat’ that has grasped me. What a glorious way to paint lilies! I too love the impressionists, and smile at the idea that their work was first considered monstrous and grimace at their being used commercially. But such is the birth and the fate of great art.

    1. Isn’t that studio boat wonderful? It certainly puts a new twist on what the Water Rat said to the Mole in Wind in the Willows: “Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing–absolutely nothing–half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” Monet just messed about differently, and quite beautifully.

  19. “Apart from painting and gardening, I’m not good at anything,” Apart from? LOL It is always interesting to learn of artists with unique vision being criticized by those who study such things but, for the most part, are not good at anything themselves …apart from criticizing. My first encounter with such was in enjoying and reading about Andrew Wyeth’s painting which wasn’t appreciated for being too realistic and not interpretive enough. Now he’s a genius. Nothing changed except for critics’ opinions.

    We have been fortunate to have Monet’s “tours” visit some of the local museums over the years. One cannot truly appreciate his, and so many others’, work in a book, especially those that were done on large canvases.

    1. Wyeth’s a great example of the same dynamic. It shows up in literary criticism, too. Mary Oliver’s been heavily criticized for being “too simple,” and Flannery O’Connor for being “too dark.” I enjoy them both, and intend to continue enjoying them. Some well-paid critics fall prey to the same dynamic that shows up on social media and in HOAs: the conviction that tearing someone else down will elevate the critic.

      The last tour I visited was Post-Impressionists, and it was terrific. The latest offering is a Hockney/van Gogh exhibit that’s a must-see for me. Fortunately, it’s here through June, so there’s plenty of time to visit.

      1. We’re fortunate to have a few fine museums within an hour or two drive. Boston, of course, and the Clark Institute (that’s me modeling early in my career in the first image) in Williamstown, MA. I think Amherst College has some nice holdings but, despite living here now for the better part of fifty years and just like Dickinson place, I’ve never been. Suppose I should do something about that when things loosen up again.

        1. Oh, the images rotate with each connection. I am referring to the one by Jean-Leon Gerome. Later on I was the subject of William-Adolphe Bouguereau‘s work. Enjoy scrolling. It’s a wonderful collection endowed by some very generous and wealthy folks. Some of the pieces are huge, like the two I linked, and others small enough to adorn anyone’s apartment wall. We’ve been there several times although not in a few years. It’s set in a nice open country setting and has a nice restaurant too.

          1. I’ve always been fond of Bouguereau’s paintings: the more natural of them, at least. Some are just a little too romanticized for me, but others certainly have stood the slings and arrows of the critics. I’d love to see some of his work in person.

    1. He was quite an interesting man, and obviously quite accomplished in ways that involved more than paint and canvas. His gardening reminds me of Audubon’s bird dissections. One reason Audubon could portray birds in such a life-like manner was that he knew them from the inside out — in the most literal way possible.

  20. It’s funny how a topic seems to bunch up in my random readings — Monet being the most recent. I love that second-to-the-last photo of all that gorgeous green with dark trunk and branches and bits of blue. What you’d captured in high relief and detail, my mind’s eye can still feel those dappled Monet strokes.

    1. It’s like searching for a wildflower for weeks and not seeing a single one. Then, after the first one’s spotted, they’re suddenly everywhere. The same thing happens with words. I learn a new word — one I’m sure I’ve never come across — and suddenly everyone is using it. I’m sure some scientist has explained the phenomenon; I’m content just to enjoy it!

  21. Whenever I visit a major art museum, which is whenever I get near one, I always make sure I save time for the impressionists, Linda. As a result, I have been privileged to see many of the best known impressionist works. As I read your comments about capturing the colors that a person blinded by cataracts sees when his seeing is restored, I was reminded of how much Monet’s later paintings were impacted by his cataracts, including the colors he could see, which led to his paintings that were close to abstract in nature.
    I was working on photos from my PCT hike last night when I came across a small lake I had camped on between Carson and Sonora Pass. The evening reflection shots were impacted by ripples caused by a slight breeze and made for quite fun impressionistic pictures.
    Great post. Well thought out and beautiful written. –Curt

    1. Interesting that you should mention cataracts and color, Curt. What finally drove me to the eye doctor for a bit of consultation was my discovery that the grass looked nice and green when I looked at it with one eye, but rather dull and grayish when I peered at it with the other. I’d not had much problem with halos around lights and such, but the loss of color finally became obvious. Another artist whose impaired vision eventually led to abstraction was Georgia O’Keeffe. Both painters preferred adaptation to quitting.

      Your mention of your mountain lake reminded me of the small alpine lakes in the Wasatch Mountains. The first time I encountered one, I didn’t possess a camera and I didn’t know a thing about wildflowers, but I still can recall the vision in my mind’s eye.

      1. I just blinked both eyes, Linda. I could still see green out of each one. Thankfully. The desire to keep creating is amazing. May we both have it, Linda. Renoir is another example. His arthritis grew so bad in his old age that an assistant had to put his brush in his hand.

        I am always searching for the perfectly quiet lake of pond to achieve true reflections. But I’ve learned that the ripple, impressionistic effect can be equally intriguing and beautiful. Both capture the mind’s eye. –Curt

  22. The closest I’ve come to seeing the world as Monet does in his paintings is experiencing dense fog and mist, in coastal California or Costa Rica. But that visual experience isn’t what the transformative vision of Monet’s art is all about. It’s a transition from the literal to the visionary, and that’s what I love in Monet, Cezanne, and Pissaro.
    Degas is the French artist of this period I love the most, but his work goes in a different direction than the transformative, with different subject matter and composition, though there are shared techniques.

    1. Say ‘Degas’ to me, and I’m back in ballet class, with a teacher who used his paintings to inspire her little charges. To be honest, I liked tap better than ballet; I didn’t have the same Sugar Plum Fairy aspirations as some of my classmates.

      For some reason, ‘fog’ and ‘Impressionists’ don’t go together for me. I don’t know why; I’ve never thought about it before. Monet certainly worked with fog in his paintings (The Houses of Parliament comes to mind), but it’s just not an association I make — probably because it’s the Impressionists color that I most love.

      1. I think of the reduced contrast and the reduced emphasis on detail. in some paintings. Color can replace detail in importance. That’s all a crude generalization, it’s easy to find paintings are don’t reflect those tendencies.

    1. It was such a memorable experience at Doro that I don’t even wish I’d had a decent camera (and more skills) at the time. I remember it perfectly well, and the attempt to re-create the day with words was satisfying in a way quite different from looking at photos. I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  23. Your post brings back memories of a visit to Giverny maybe 16-17 years back. While the house was rustic and the gardens were nice, the pond is where the memories lay. My wife and I still speak of trying out a few words of French on a fellow who worked there, to see if he would take a picture of us on the bridge.

    And whenever we come across pictures of his paintings or a mention of Giverny, that moment in time comes back.

    1. What a wonderful memory. It’s true that a single scene or experience can contain something much larger, and hold it over time. I’m sure the fellow was gracious, and appreciative of your asking in his language. I didn’t do so well in Paris, but I found in the French countryside people were more open than I’d expected, and willing to help out despite missing words or poor constructions!

  24. I’m embarrassed to say that I did not know that Monet was a gardener, as well as an amazing artist. Thanks for this informative, well-written post. I was thinking, while reading, that writers are like artists in some ways. The “literary” authors want to show life exactly as it is, with bumps and scratches, pain and ugliness amidst maybe a little beauty. Other writers prefer to show life as if the blind suddenly can see – patches of light and glory and beauty bathed in soft colors.

    1. What a great way of putting it, re: the writers, and I think you’re on to something. Realistic representation tells the story one way; impressionistic memories tell it another. Both ways of seeing (and telling) are valuable, but they have different purposes. If I’m trying to decide “Is it this bird, or that?” I’ll turn to Audubon. If I want to enjoy the image of a bird in flight, I’ll choose a different artist. Of course, how a story is told (or which story is chosen for the telling) says something about the writer, too: the purpose makes a difference, but so does the writer’s state of mind.

      As for Monet and his gardening, there’s no need to be embarassed. The longer I live, the more I realize how little I know. Better to just celebrate the bits of new knowledge that come my way!

  25. Greetings from Pennsylvania. A few years ago I was fortunate to be visiting Paris and fortunate to see Monet’s enormous murals in l’Orangerie. They are among the greatest works I’ve ever seen. Neil S.

    1. What an experience that would have been. Everyone I know ‘likes’ Monet, but those who’ve had opportunity to see his canvases in person seem to move pretty quickly from ‘liking’ to something else. Often, their responses end in silence, or a wave of the hand and a comment like, “I wish you could have been there to see it, too.” I’m glad you were there to see them; thanks for stopping by to share your response.

  26. It’s always a treat when your writings and photos take me back to Mississippi! (Esp in Covid times!)
    A good friend from Clarksdale sent photos this spring of the wisteria ‘everywhere’ draping high and low – seemed to be a bumper year for wisteria.

    I remain off line most of the time – loading pages and reading off line. for right now I’m in timeout mode while recovering from a strong reaction to the first dose of AstraZ. Hopefully in another week I’ll be back to norm.

    Wanted to send a smoke signal! Love, Lisa

    1. I hope by now your response to the vaccine has eased. It occurred to me that I don’t know anyone else who’s had the AZ vaccine, so I don’t know about others’ reactions. It may be that there are plenty of people in other countries who’ve had it, but simply mention ‘getting the shot’ or ‘being vaccinated,’ and I assumed they’d received one of the vaccines common here (Moderna and Pfizer). I had about 48 hours of symptoms with my second dose of Moderna, but they were relatively mild: fever, headaches, fatigue.

      The wisteria here ran rampant this year, and it seems that many plants responded to our freeze positively rather than negatively. Their schedules may be a little off, but at least they’ve all come back. Right now, it’s the heat that has everyone grumping a bit. It got so hot, so fast, that I’ve had some trouble adjusting, and my work days rarely exceed six or seven hours at this point. It always takes me a week or two to get my routines changed: starting early and late, and hydrating like crazy.

      Right now, my biggest problem has to do with the supply chain. Varnish is impossible to get. It’s not supposed to reach US warehouses until the end of July, so it may be the second week of August before it gets to my distributor. When there’s not even a single can available online, there’s an issue. I have enough to finish my current job, and one more — then, we’ll see. The impacts of Covid are continuing, even as the country opens up. The good news is I don’t need plywood or 2x4s — lumber prices have doubled and tripled.

    1. Anyone who’s willing to grow his own garden to provide himself with “models” for painting is a dedicated artist for sure — in a couple of ways! Wouldn’t it have been fun to stroll through the garden with Monet? I’ll bet he knew every flower by name.

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