Friday, November 14, 2014

Happy Birthday Monet

 “Nymphéas,” or “Water Lilies.”

Who doesn't love Monet? Well, the 19th century French critics for a start and even some of today's critics who loathe his shimmering, beautiful pieces. But the rest of us adore them for just that reason - a vision of beauty that takes us from our ordinary world into the sublime.

“Nymphéas,” or “Water Lilies.”  

Born in Paris in 1840, Monet moved with his family to the Normandy port city of Le Havre when he was 5. His early artistic efforts there were charcoal caricatures. He met the legendary regional painter Eugène Boudin when he was 18 and learned to paint landscapes in oil from him. Like most painters later termed "impressionists," he battled family disapproval, poverty, hunger, nasty barbs from the official critics and public distain. 

Following a productive stint in Argenteuil, near Paris, in the 1870s, Monet returned to Normandy and began his serial paintings (of haystacks and other subjects) in the 1880s and '90s. He spent the last 40 years of life in Giverny, the site of his oft-painted garden.

If ever a painter inhaled the soul of a garden, that painter was Monet. While his later years were financially secure, they were also difficult ones. His wife died, then one of his two sons, and his second son became gravely ill. World War I began and struck lethal blow after lethal blow to the young men of Europe.  Monet knew that, as an Impressionist, he was considered passé — Fauvism and Cubism had made that clear  At the same time his eyesight was deteriorating as a result of cataracts, leaving his vision so bad that he had to number his paint tubes to determine what colors he was using.

But he continued to paint his garden, hovering, as we now realize, on the edge of abstraction. He painted the dark as well as the light, totally absorbed in the natural work that was his own creation. His later works open up to the heart of a world contained in the heart of a flower floating on the primeval chaos of water.

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