TAFE Excursion to the NGV
I want to begin with the fact that I rarely if ever cry at art exhibitions – the last and only other time to my best recollection was at an exhibit that caused shock and sadness rather than tears of joy or any positive emotions. This time it was from overwhelming beauty. The colours, the story, the texture of the paint, the life of the artist, the atmosphere he created and the dedication to his art all came together for an experience that ended up being so much more than I had expected. I cried several times and may make a return trip to this exhibition in risk of doing so again.
This was not just an exhibition for me, or a learning experience, it was one of those moments in your life where life changing and enriching seeds are planted – where you rededicate yourself to your calling in honour of those amazing artists who have gone before and those that are yet to come.
The richness I achieve comes from Nature, the source of my inspiration. Claude Monet.
Colour is my day-long obsession, joy and torment. To such an extent indeed that one day, finding myself at the deathbed of a woman who had been and still was very dear to me, I caught myself in the act of focusing on her temples and automatically analyzing the succession of appropriately graded colours which death was imposing on her motionless face. Claude Monet.
Claude Monet also known as Oscar-Claude Monet or Claude Oscar Monet (November 14, 1840 December 5, 1926) was a French impressionist painter, to many he is a leader of the Impressionist movement in France. During a time of wars and social change through the industrial revolution, there was Monet. Struggling at the beginning of his career, but later on gaining enough patronage and sales to be able to purchase the house that he had finally settled into with his now sizeable family of his own children plus ones of the women who became his second wife.
As I moved around the gallery from one work to another the things that struck me the most were the colours and textures of the paint. Cool colours blended and balanced with warmer ones, muted and sometimes bold and striking, with the paint laid on in thick lashings in places to bring the points of interest right off the surface of the canvas. As I moved closer the colours laid over the top and around each other were visible, stepping back across the room, they blended and merged together retreating into the background to allow focal points to stand out.
The water lilies were not just one layer of paint but layer over layer of warm greens, cool mauves and blues, pinks and creamy yellows. The water was also made up of layers of colour that looked like they were glazed over each other to get a richness and depth to indicate reflections from the sky and surroundings. Varying brushstrokes and thickness of the paint also gave form and direction as well as texture and interest to the paintings.
“My garden is my most beautiful masterpiece.” Claude Monet.
Paintings in the exhibition varied from smaller rounded canvasses to very large panels, many were not painted edge to edge and the canvas can still be seen inside the framed area. It didn’t seem to bother me as I was so entranced by the paintings themselves. I particularly liked the “Waterlillies Nymphéas” painted on the square panel. The flowers were so striking and the layering of the colours gave it a luminescence that captured my attention. Another was “Roses – Les Roses”. Painted after Monet had his operation to fix failing eyesight due to cataracts. There is almost a joy in this painting as the marks skip across the surface creating the foliage and limbs of the meandering rose bush and the scattering of the colours to indicate the flowers. Even the sky seems to flow around the roses as if playing with them in some sort of game.
Monet’s stronger coloured paintings produced from around 1922-24 show his struggle with his eyesight. At first I didn’t take to them as I had the other works, but as I moved away from them and had another look across the room, the depth and perspective were very clear and I gained a new appreciation for them. I can understand how Monet was very happy to again be able to see his lovely blues better after his operation. From one room to another his love of certain colours for me seemed very clear. I loved his very large panel of the wisteria with its gorgeous mauve and blue colours with the tiny dashes of crimson red.
It came as no real surprise that during WW1 Monet donated paintings to help war victims and that even though two of his sons enlisted, he was horrified by war. His weeping willows are in homage to the common soldier, who suffered in this brutal conflict. I love that Monet didn’t see the need to paint the horror of what went on around him, he could paint to inspire rather than to confront.
The paintings from his travels show his dedication to his art. Even when faced with personal tragedy, he only stalled once that I know of in his pursuit of painting. From the Rouen Cathedral, to the city of London, the colours are vibrant and enthusiastically applied. The river Seine and even the few portraits he did of his sons have beautiful use of colour.
I am so happy that Monet’s garden and home have been restored for us to visit today if we get the opportunity. I know that in the peace of my own garden space, there is a quietness that comes over you, a retreat from the noise and rush of the everyday. There is something in the handling of the soil, the connection with the plants and interacting with the birds and other creatures of the garden. Your artistic mind gets to create the form and the range of colours in your garden, the textures and the way the light will play its way through it.
For me it is another way of exercising my creative brain and giving it a kind of rest at the same time. The clutter and noise of the rest of the world fades away and leaves you with just the garden and you in it. I hope that is what Monet found in his garden. I would love the opportunity to travel to be in this space and experience the atmosphere for myself one day, and maybe, if I am lucky, find some of the inspiration that Monet found in it.
For me this trip was more than seeing a collection of paintings. Some see just that, a pile of lovely paintings. I see a man’s life, his loves, his losses and his work. He looked for material in travels and in his garden. He kept experimenting and evolving his methods, style and subjects. The luscious paint in the garden scenes seem to pop off the wall inviting me to walk my eyes in to each and every work. OMG I am in love.