It’s hard to imagine a world where Claude Monet would need “rehabilitation”. His Impressionist masterpieces are ubiquitous around the world. Nevertheless, his art was somewhat neglected shortly after his death in 1926: the art world then riding a Modern Art wagon of Cubism, Futurism and Suprematism, where lines reigned supreme. Monet’s loose brushstrokes and impressionist blur was as rejected as the neoclassical style he himself fought against. Yet his last works (and the very last above) bear the seeds of another path: the Path to Abstraction, specifically Abstract Expressionism and the New York School. This is the object of a focused exhibition, currently showing at the Musée de l’Orangerie, on until August 20. Due his cataract affliction, Monet’s palette became much heightened in his late years. Dark vivid red and purple, acid yellows and greens, all overwhelmed his compositions, leaving us with a singularly different vision of his much loved Giverny, seen distorted by his cataract eyes. Yet what is also striking at the end of his life is the compositional change: a narrower focus on water reflections covers most of the expanse of any canvas, until the horizon line already raised up and up, fully disappears. I found the […]
Earlier this summer, I watched the movie Monet and I on the plane back from Europe. The following day, at a routine vision appointment, I was told I had typical California sun damage AND cataract on both eyes. The drama queen in me immediately thought about Monet and how cataract actually plagued his life, altered his perception of colors and pushed him slowly but surely towards the abstraction visible in his Grandes Décorations (1914-1926) at L’Orangerie. But let’s face it, cataract is no big deal nowadays. I won’t need the routine operation for another 10-15 years so what did I do? I got some cool glasses instead. Then I got a nasty inflammation on my sun damage areas and got to wear my cool frames a lot! This made me think about how much I rely on my eyes. And just like that, I was back thinking of Monet.
Who is the “Father of all Painters”? Duchamp in 1913? He did turn Art on its head with his Bicycle Wheel (1913) and Fountain (1917), refusing to be led by any aesthetic diktat. But he did not paint much… Picasso in 1907? A few weeks back, the blog took you along his rejection of painting only the beautiful when he discovered African Art and created Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907). But even before these two game changers of the art world, there was Cézanne, the man whom Picasso declared was “the Father of all Painters”. Let me paint you Cézanne in just a few words and numbers: – apples (vibrating, preferably on a sliding white cloth or drapery), – Madame Cézanne, showing zero emotions (yet there are almost 30 portraits of her) and…
If you think about Seurat, dots should be the next word popping into your mind. My 5th grade daughter and her class made their own version of Seurat’s The Channel at Gravelines, Evening to be auctioned at the school gala. They used a multitude of dots to recreate local and illuminating colors and paid a brilliant homage to Seurat. He formalised scientific discoveries on color theory as a systematic approach applied to his painting technique. His breakthrough was termed Pointillism and was achieved with just six major paintings that are so familiar to all. He did not have time for more: he died aged 31.
Studying a painting is the exact opposite of the better part of our life spent glued on our smartphone. Isn’t it weird then that sharing this blog through social media brings me so many personal connections and mini-conversations that I would not have otherwise? Truly honoured that people I know (and some that I don’t) decide to Follow me, I am thankful for the Likes and the time you take to fill the Comment box. Active looking versus passive flicking, it all comes back to squeezing more out of the little time we have and getting something meaningful in return. Like most, I flick through Facebook (sometimes) and Instagram (more often) to check on my friends and to feast on the visual world I love so much. Yet, for my sanity, I try to balance the fast and furious short attention span of social media with slow, detailed observations of artworks from a bygone era. Looking at the Impressionists, I envy the sophistication of what people used to wear, the refinement of outings to the opera and the silent dialogue that such scenes establish with our modern days. Until I spent too much time recently looking at Renoir’s La Loge. I suddenly realised the lorgnette and opera glasses […]
Freshly back to my Art History studies, my friend Lorenza was hoping for a few jewel-related stories into the discussions of our course on Impressionism. Jewelry and gemstones are high on my grid but mixed with Impressionism, isn’t it a stretch? Not in my world: Opal is the Impressionist gemstone par excellence! Look at the range of pastel colors this opal displays: the soft brownish orange turning to a blushed apricot and a hint of coral, the green alternating between moss and forest until it fluoresces neon-like while bright aqua blue is dispersed widely with rare specks of royal blue emerging from the depth. This spectacle is what us gemologists call play-of-color, and it is visually very similar to the open and broken brushstrokes associated with the Impressionists and Monet in particular. Let me take you beyond the surface of opal for a bit of gemology… Erosion can have beautiful consequences. Water runs down, picks up mostly silica and other minor elements and becomes a silica-rich solution which permeates cracks. Once there, such solution deposits as small silica spheres which can vary in size depending on temperature and pressure. As the process repeats itself, a whole structure of tiny […]