Coming back around to Monet

Claude Monet is a good example of what I refer to as a 360-degree artist. Future art historians first go into the field loving his work, then start to lose enthusiasm upon discovering many other great (less commercial) artists, before coming full circle to appreciating his contribution to art history. I reached that last step when I discovered more about his practice of endlessly reproducing the same image in order to “get it right,” which in Monet’s case meant perfectly capturing the light and atmospheric effects of a particular scene.  He worked in this obsessive compulsive way throughout his career and you can see it in his multiple series, such as the 15 paintings of haystacks he made between 1890-91, the 31 paintings of the Rouen Cathedral between 1892-94 and the numerous Water Lily paintings created throughout his lifetime.  These are works we’ve all seen endlessly reproduced on mouse pads, key chains and mugs so it’s easy to brush them off simply as pretty pictures.  It’s more interesting to think of these works as they really were—exercises for Monet to hone his craft. Understanding more the attention, tenacity, rigor and discipline that went into his work makes me appreciate him on a deeper level.  Many artists work in series, but for them it often means creating a diverse body of work united by the same theme.  For Monet it meant recreating virtually the same image over and over again. This couldn’t have been fun or exciting in the traditional sense, but I get the sense that for Monet art was more about work than play. Realizing that made me see his lighthearted subject matter in a new way and ultimately come back around to liking Monet again.

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