Claude Monet was born on November 14, 1840 in Paris France and was son to Claude Adolphe Monet and Louise-Justine Aubree. Monet, even from a very young age, had always loved to study and practice art and even attended Le Havre, school for the arts at the ripe age of 11. Monet continued to study art for much of his life and even developed his own style of art that was coined Impressionism (Claude Monet Biography).
Impressionism is a movement in French painting, sometimes called optical realism because of its almost scientific interest in the actual visual experience and effect of light and movement on appearance of objects (Impressionism). Characteristics of Impressionist paintings include visible brush strokes, open composition, emphasis on light in its changing qualities, ordinary subject matter, the inclusion of movement as a crucial element of human perception and experience, and unusual visual angles (Art Periods: Impressionism in France).
Monet painted a series of Impressionist series of approximately 250 paintings called Water Lilies. 250 The paintings depict Monet’s flower garden at Giverny and were the main focus of Monet’s artistic production during the last thirty years of his life (Water Lilies). As part of his extensive gardening plans at Giverny, Monet had a pond dug and planted with lilies in 1893. He painted the subject in 1899, and thereafter it dominated his art. He worked continuously for more than twenty years on a large-scale decorative series, attempting to capture every observation, impression, and reflection of the flowers and water. By the mid-1910s Monet had achieved a completely new, fluid, and somewhat audacious style of painting in which the water-lily pond became the point of departure for an almost abstract art. This work, which he began in the late teens and kept in his studio until his death, is one of the most complete pictures of the late series (Claude Monet).
One of the 250 Water Lilies paintings, completed in 1907 is currently on display in the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. The painting is oil on canvas and 38 1/8 x 38 ¾. The form of the painting is 2-dimensional. The painting shows water lilies in what appears to be a pond. There are more water lilies in the distance than “in the front”. The water and the water lilies are not painted in a “traditional” way. If looking closely, one can see that they are painted will unsmooth and spotted paint strokes and a vast variety of colors. The water surrounding the water lilies highlights them by adding areas of light as well depth where needed.
The space of the Water Lilies is key to its beauty. Monet uses a proper proportional scale to indicate distance from the viewer. The lilies are not crowded and appear “comfortable” in their environment. Each group of lilies had its own space. Though the groups of lilies get close to one another in the distance, there is no obvious overlapping. When it comes to the composition of the painting, Monet leads the viewer though the entire painting with every brush stroke. The “front” of the painting is bright and full of light and catches the eye first. The light in the center of the painting leads the viewer’s eyes up to view the large clusters of lilies.
The color in Water Lilies makes the painting the gorgeous work of art that it is. The various colors allows for the depth and the reflection of light. The water in the painting varies in color from very pale lavender, to dark and mossy browns and greens. Lavender, brown, and green are probably not the first colors a viewer would think of when imagining a pond or stream but it works perfectly in Water Lilies. There is also a wide variety of color used in the lilies. When looking up close, the “green” part of the lilies are actually composed of every shade of green imaginable, yellows, blues, browns, and even pinks. The flowers on the lilies, which appear just pink from a distance, are made with red, pink, white, brown, and grey.
From the painting, it is clear that Monet was fascinated, and spent a lot of time concentrating on the light of a painting. There is so much depth and highlighting in the painting that many onlookers find it breathtaking. The lightest part of the painting is right in the center. There are no lilies in that area, so there is no need for shadowing which is why it appears to be illuminated. In the distance of the painting, it is much darker and there are also a lot more lilies. The front of the painting is purple and blue. It almost appears as though it is the sky reflecting onto the water.
The texture of this painting is what makes Monet, Monet. When looking up close at the painting, it is hard to believe that the textured, rough and quick brush strokes create such a clear looking and well composed painting from far away. If a viewer only had the opportunity to view the painting up close, it would be reasonable to believe that they would think the painting was a mess and wouldn’t create a clear image.
There are so many layers in Water Lilies. When looking up close, it is strange to see shades of brown layered on top of purple and it appears as though it would never look fluid, but Monet mastered it to do so.
Monet was the master of Impressionism and his series of 250 Water Lilies paintings showcased his talent in the category perfectly. His works are displayed all around the world, even right here in the Boston area. Monet will forever go down in history as the first, and perhaps the greatest Impressionist artist of all time.
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