Thursday, March 06, 2008

Beauty of Monet

This is called impasto. It's an Italian word that refers to part of a painting that has a build up of paint. I don't recall where I first learned the term, but no doubt from some of the art books I've read. I developed a real interest in art when I was in college - really even earlier than that but I just didn't know what to do with it until later. I eventually learned that when one is interested in something the easiest thing to do is start reading about it and learning. I often start with a children's book to "get my feet wet" when I know nothing about a topic.

It wasn't until I had done some reading that I even knew what kind of art I was interested in, much less who any of the artists were.

When I was in college at the University of Kentucky the Armand Hammer collection traveled there. It was a major art exhibition and I went. It was the first time I was exposed to Impressionists on a large scale. My exposure to art had been very, very limited. Art was not an interest of anyone I knew growing up. It wasn't something that was available to me. It was not something that anyone thought about. Literally, it just wasn't on the radar screen. That's not a slam against my family or the place where I grew up. It just wasn't part of my world.

All of life is a trade off and I had some amazing experiences growing up that people who spent their weekends in museums missed out on. So, there you go. But, being who I am, I want to have it all.

For many years now, I have sought art in every venue possible. I'm certainly no expert, but I can hold my own in a basic art discussion, particularly about the impressionists. I've traveled to some of the places they painted, including Monet's home in Giverny, and I've read and studied their personalities, thought processes and techniques. I don't study their techniques to try and duplicate them - I don't have that talent or interest. I study them because I want to understand the work.

However, all of that does nothing to prepare me for the experience of getting lost in a painting. It's as if every molecule of my body becomes devoted to only experiencing what is in front of me. Nothing holds this power over me like a Monet painting, particularly his later works. The Orangerie in Paris, where his final eight panels reside, is an all day visit for me, as is the Musee Marmottan, which has some of his unfinished works on display. Most friends don't want to go to a museum with me. Not only will they be bored and ready to leave hours before I will, but I will be completely non-communicative. I'm there to "commune with the art," not visit. I have given "the Patsy tour" of various museums to friends - and that's fun - but that's a different kind of experience.

I know many art experts look down on those of us who love impressionists. That's fine. I still love them. In particular I love Monet. I know he wasn't the most pleasant personality, at least from what I read, but when I'm looking at his brush strokes, and examining up close every square inch of the canvas his brush has touched, and the amazing beauty it has wrought, I don't care. I don't care if the art snobs think I'm a neophyte. I don't care if people who don't like art think I'm a snob. I don't care about anything except losing myself, my ego, my entire being while I immerse myself into that beauty. It's as if I'm melting into it, experiencing it on multiple levels at the same time. It's truly an other-worldly experience for me.

This would be related to why I absolutely despise bus tour groups that disgorge a huge number of tourists who have no real interest in being there, but are just there because it's stop number four of the day, and rush in, talking loudly, and generally ruining the experience for the rest of us.

And you don't even want to get me started on school groups. I want children to experience art, but could we have at least one day or morning or afternoon or sometime when we could experience museums without dozens of loud children? Or could we just have children who come to museums without screaming? That would be another option. It's amazing the difference between a school group in an art museum in France and one in the US. Kindergarten aged kids in France sit on the floor in a semi circle in front of a painting and listen patiently to their instructor explain it. There's no running, no screaming, no jostling.

This painting, Flowering Arches, is the one Monet in the Phoenix Art Museum. Generally I head straight for the Impressionists in any museum - depending on what the collection is like I may want to spend all available time there. This was painted in Giverny in 1903, so it's one of his later works. It has all the hallmarks of the things I love about Monet.

The Phoenix Museum allows photographs of some paintings, and I was thrilled this was one of them. Of course flash wasn't allowed, but Greg took these for me and I just cropped in on bits and pieces of the close ups he did. This is generally how I most love Monet paintings - in these closeup bits that show the layers, the colors, the impasto, the brush strokes, the passion of the artist. It truly feeds my soul and is a beauty unlike any other I know.

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