Monday, November 5, 2012

Learning with Liz: Monet and his Life

Liz Hutchinson's Summer in Giverny
It's hard to imagine a better person than Liz Hutchinson to give a talk about Monet.  For ten years, Liz was the Assistant Instructor at ArtStudy/Giverny, a program designed to give artists and photographers the opportunity to work daily in Monet's gardens and the surrounding village and countryside.   Having spent an afternoon in Giverny many years ago, I still remember its beauty and the excitement I felt at seeing Monet's home and the waterlilies and the Japanese bridge that grace so many of his paintings. I can only imagine what a special experience it would be for an artist to have the chance to work there on an extended basis.  What better way to get a sense of the role light plays in Monet's art than to live in his world 24/7?

It was fun to sit in on her talk and pretend that I was back in school in an art history class.  Liz started off with a brief explanation of her tie and shoes (which are both works of Impressionism in their own right).  When Liz completed the mural for the Festival, she had some paint left over.  Why not use it to create some works of wearable art???  Talk about having joie de vivre!!!

Ed Kosiewiez' Petit Pantheon Theatral
Liz shared some tidbits about Monet that I don't remember ever hearing before.  Did you know that some of his first works of art were caricatures?  I was quite curious when I saw this drawing in the exhibit since it doesn't exactly cry out "Monet."  It was created by Monet when he was a mere 20 years old.  Even at this early stage in his career, Monet couldn't quite bring himself to work in the genre of realism that ruled the day.

Liz also shared that Monet was quite the control freak.  (Her words were a bit more gentle than that, but that's what I came away with.)  Once he moved to Giverny (with his mistress, two children and six stepchildren), Monet painstakingly developed the vision of his gardens and was heavily involved in their planting and maintenance.   I have the image of him physically building the Japanese bridge and setting the waterlilies just so in the pond.  While this characteristic might not have made him much fun to live with, I can't complain about its results. 

Jo Moorer's Impressions Sunrise
The work that gave rise to the term "Impressionism" was a painting that Monet named on the spot when asked about it. I envision the conversation as something like, "What do you call that?  You can't even tell what it is!" "I don't know--Impressions Sunrise?"   The name stuck and jokes abounded that Monet couldn't paint the real thing so he painted impressions instead.  We all know who got the last laugh.  

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