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