I think I would have quite liked to have been a lady of leisure, walking through beautiful gardens in the afternoon sunlight, it certainly beats staring at a computer screen for a rather large percentage of my week. It’s times like this that show my feminism gene is probably lacking some what, so please no jibes around the steady advancement of equal rights and opportunities, as I do in fact understand that life probably was not all skipping through roses and afternoon tea.
In his later years, Monet and his large family rented a house with 2 acres of land, and 7 years later, his success as a painter afforded him to purchase the house, gardens and surrounding buildings. He created studios and work spaces as well as green houses and gave his gardener daily written instructions on the specification of what he wanted planted in the garden and the architecture of it.
3 years after the purchase of the house, Monet purchased additional land and undertook a project in landscaping the area with ponds and planted water lilies which would form the basis of some of his best known work.
Up to this point, Monet had a varied life and had already lost one wife, Camille, who head had painted studies of her on her deathbed. He later married Alice, who is the subject of this painting.
Monet had, by this time, shunned his learnings in traditional painting styles, and shared new styles and techniques which concentrated on the effects of light on the surroundings and used rapid, short brush strokes and broken colours to present a different style which is now known as Impressionism.
You can see in this painting that the grassy ground and flowers as nothing more that dabs on the canvas, and close up, make little sense to the eye, but stepping back from the painting it’s absolutely identifiable as a lush pasture with wild flowers scattered through the growth. The clouds in the sky, pick out the breeze which ushers them across the landscape, making them fluid and wispy, echoed in the movement of the woman’s dress. Her shadow, showing the effects of the sunlight and shade on the colours of the things around her. The faces of the woman and the boy are in no way heavily detailed, yet you can still identify mood and feeling from the work.
Impressionism was not to identify the subject in minute detail, but to demonstrate the light and movement over time, and Monet nailed this technique. His paintings are visually stunning and packed full of the feeling of the fluidity of nature.
Monet’s gardens are still maintained today, and are just as beautiful as his later life’s work depicted them. Should you wish to visit them (and I whole heartedly recommend it) you can find out more about Giverny here
On a side note, many of Monet’s paintings have been bastardised over the years, but this one is by far my favourite….the dark side keeping the dark side in shade…