What an amazing artist French Impressionist Claude Monet was (1840 – 26). He was obsessed with colour and light – lived and breathed it as these quotes show. M0net painted light and it’s effect, he was particularly interested in how it transformed the landscape and also its reflective quality upon water.
“I am completely absorbed by my work. These landscapes of water and reflections have become an obsession. They are beyond the strength of an old man, and yet I am determined to set down what I feel. I have destroyed some…I have begun others over again…and I hope that something will come of so much effort.”
The very term ‘impressionism’ comes from one the artist’s paintings ‘Impression, Sunrise’. He lived in London in 1870 for a year and studied Constable and Turner. He painted his famous painting ‘Impression, Sunrise’ in 1872. In 1879 he became a widower. He painted his wife on her deathbed and observed:-
“Color 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 colors which death was imposing on her motionless face.”
Monet believed that to understand something, one had to observe it day after day. That understanding something sometimes requires practise. He was relentless in his pursuit.
I know that to paint the sea really well, you need to look at it every hour of every day in the same place so that you can understand its way in that particular spot and that is why I am working on the same motifs over and over again, four or six times even.
We’re having marvelous weather and I wish I could send you a little of the sunshine. I am slaving away on six paintings a day. I’m giving myself a hard time over it as I haven’t yet managed to capture the color of this landscape, there are moments when I’m appalled at the colors I’m having to use, I’m afraid what I’m doing is just dreadful and yet I really am understating it; the light is simply terrifying.”
The artist famous for his waterlilies and his garden at Giverny is credited with lots of quotes that contain references to nature and in particular gardening – for example ‘digging and delving’:-
It’s on the strength of observation and reflection that one finds a way. So we must dig and delve unceasingly.”
I like the way Monet humbles himself before nature. He never thinks that he has conquered painting nature and the way the light affects it. He always feels he owes a debt to nature – but it’s probably the other way around, judging by this beautiful painting:-
“I love you because you are you, and because you taught me how to understand light. Thus you increased me. I regret I cannot give it back to you. Paint, paint ever and ever untill the canvas wears out. My eyes need your color and my heart is happy about you.”
In 1923 he had two operations on his cataracts, this may have altered his colour vision. His colours before the operation have a reddish tone, sometimes indicative of cataracts.
My garden is my most beautiful masterpiece.
Everything I have earned has gone into these gardens.
He loved Giverny, which is on the right bank of the river Seine and especially his gardens of which he was the architect and so able to dictate his own controlled environment.
I am following Nature without being able to grasp her…I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers.”
He died aged in 1826 at the ripe old age of 86. He had lung cancer. This quote is so poignant and ironic that such a man who loved nature and was drawn by the light he painted should very nearly go blind. We still have his vision though and through his paintings, the ability to see what he saw. A true legacy.
“I’m working very hard and I would like to paint everything before I cannot see anymore.”