Thursday, September 6, 2012
Poppy Fields near Argenteuil (Les Coquelicots, Environs d'Argenteuil)
oil on canvas
54 x 73.7 cm (21 1/4 x 29 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA
When Monet returned from England in 1871, he settled in Argenteuil and lived there until 1878. These years were a time of fulfillment for him. Monet found in the region around his home the bright landscapes which enabled him to explore the potential of plein-air painting. He painted several Poppy Fields near Argenteuil. Painted in the wildflower fields outside Argenteuil, this painting reveals Monet's passion for color. He scatters the blooms of poppies in a natural profusion across the lush green fields. It conjures up the vibrant atmosphere of a stroll through the fields on a summer's day.
Claude Monet (1840 – 1926) was a founder of French impressionist painting, and the most consistent and prolific practitioner of the movement's philosophy of expressing one's perceptions before nature, especially as applied to plein-air landscape painting. Monet found subjects in his immediate surroundings, as he painted the people and places he knew best. He rejected the traditional approach to landscape painting and instead of copying old masters he had been learning from his friends and the nature itself. He observed variations of color and light caused by the daily or seasonal changes.
One day in 1871, legend says, Claude Monet walked into a food shop in Amsterdam, where he had gone to escape the Prussian siege of Paris. There he spotted some Japanese prints being used as wrapping paper. He was so taken by the engravings that he bought one on the spot. The purchase changed his life — and the history of Western art.
Monet went on to collect 231 Japanese prints, which greatly influenced his work and that of other practitioners of Impressionism, the movement he helped create. Under the new Meiji Emperor, Japan in the 1870s was just opening to the outside world after centuries of isolation. Japanese handicrafts were flooding into European department stores and art galleries. Japonisme, a fascination with all things Japanese, was soon the rage among French intellectuals and artists, among them Vincent van Gogh, Edouard Manet, Camille Pissarro and the young Monet.
Perhaps the greatest gift Japan gave Monet, and Impressionism, was an incandescent obsession with getting the play of light and shadow, the balance of colors and the curve of a line, just right — not the way it is in reality, but the way it looks in the artist's imagination.
"I have slowly learned about the pattern of the grass, the trees, the structure of birds and other animals like insects and fish, so that when I am 80, I hope to be better," Hokusai wrote 16 years before his death at age 89. "At 90, I hope to have caught the very essence of things, so that at 100 I will have reached heavenly mysteries. At 110, every point and line will be living."
At Giverny where Monet built a Japanese bridge over a Japanese pond in a Japanese garden, he spent the rest of his life painting the private paradise, his water lilies of the pond, again and again, until he lost his eyesight in quest of an elusive, transcendent perfection that might best be called Japanese.
Posted by merryhaha at 01:03