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I believe that art enriches and informs our lives everyday in many positive ways. Sharing those experiences, whether as an artist or as an appreciator, is part of the pleasure. I welcome your comments and hope you find something of value: a laugh, an insight, a new idea or just a happy moment. Enjoy art!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Meeting Monet

We recently returned from visiting friends and family in the D.C. area (with a "side of Boston.")  I left my sketchbooks behind and rarely even got out my camera, it was a much needed break.  But "art" is never totally off our agenda.  My sweet daughter-in-law arranged a real highlight when she asked a friend of hers, a tour guide for the National Museum of Art, to give us a personal tour.  I could not wait!

And wow: Laura was amazing....we encouraged her to select her favorites and go from there.  What a marvelous tour; she hit some little known highlights, in chronological order, and gave us so much wonderful information that the paintings really came to life.  Her enthusiasm left a lasting impression on each of us and we left vowing to schedule another round as soon as we return.

But let me share my moment with Monet.  Most of us are familiar with the noted impressionist and can identify much of his work.  But we tend to forget about the time the masters actually spent learning and perfecting their craft.  We see the end results scattered throughout museums of the world and never think about the pieces that got trashed or reworked over and over...but I digress!

Laura was full of enthusiasm when she rounded the corner to share with us two prized possessions of the Museum: depictions of the west facade of the Rouen Cathedral done in two different lightings by Monet in 1894.

image of Rouen Cathedral, West Façade, SunlightClaude Monet (artist)
French, 1840 - 1926
Rouen Cathedral, West Façade, Sunlight, 1894
oil on canvas
overall: 100.1 x 65.8 cm (39 3/8 x 25 7/8 in.) framed: 127.6 x 91.4 cm (50 1/4 x 36 in.)
Chester Dale Collection
On View

image of Rouen Cathedral, West FaçadeClaude Monet (artist)
French, 1840 - 1926
Rouen Cathedral, West Façade, 1894
oil on canvas
overall: 100.1 x 65.9 cm (39 3/8 x 25 15/16 in.) framed: 121.6 x 88.3 cm (47 7/8 x 34 3/4 in.)
Chester Dale Collection
On View

These jpgs, from the Museum's site, do not offer great color detail.

Laura took her time explaining how Monet had painted other series (haystacks for one) in an effort to capture the various nuances of color that the different times of day offered.  This Gothic styled cathedral is located in Rouen, France and Monet produced over 30 different studies of this facade, all executed slightly differently in their colors and shadows.  It took him 2 years to do the pieces which he then took inside to his studio across the street to hone and rework.  Out of these he selected 20 for an exhibit in a Paris gallery.

 Michael Howard, in his Encyclopedia of Impressionism (Carlton, 1997), writes:
As always, the pictures gave him intense difficulties, which threw him into despair. He had vivid nightmares of the cathedral in various colors – pink, blue and yellow – falling upon him… [Monet wrote:] ‘Things don’t advance very steadily, primarily because each day I discover something I hadn’t seen the day before… In the end, I am trying to do the impossible.’ 

File:Claude Monet 032.jpg

The second group of photos is from a Wikipedia site where you can see almost all of the images of the cathedral.  I recommend a wonderful video by Kahn Academy that discusses Monet's cathedral paintings as well.  Monet intended for these pieces to be shown all together so that one could get the sense of what he was trying to do.  Unfortunately they are now all over the world in various museums and so the National Museum has a right to be proud of showing us two side by side.

Another fun site to check out is this one from Columbia University which shows the Monet paintings in a sort of sun time sequence.  I just can't convey how much Laura's comments made me want to continue my research on the work that she shared.  Monet became the man who struggled with his art, not just someone who captured our fancy with impressionism.  Each artist she discussed became a real person to us but none more so than Monet.....and I thank her letting me meet Monet through the Rouen Cathedral series.

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