Monet Revisited: The In Between

A short primer on Monet: Art History in Paris 101

The image of on every calendar or postcard usually focuses on Monet’s rendering of that elusive flower, the waterlily.  I have always thought that the most interesting parts of these paintings were the corners; the nooks and crannies that supported the entire composition  ‘in between’ the subjects that floated endlessly across the major portions of each work.   Monet’s work always has interesting corners;  I find myself drawn to them as I look for the secrets of each canvas he painted.   The next time you happen to see a Monet painting, focus for a moment on the corners and you’ll begin to understand him better.

The loose brushwork, abstract colorations and layers of paint that make up the corners are so modern, so fresh they remind one of the works of Sam Francis, or Cy Twombly.  Both modern painters who embraced the edges by making them central to their work in line, coloration, texture, and brush work that took up where Monet left off.  Art critics agree on most aspects of Impressionism today, and put Monet in the group of “post modern” painters who have inspired what came after, the period of “Abstract Expressionism” where paint,  canvas surfaces and the spaces ‘in between’ were celebrated for their heroic freshness.  I think that people forget about Monet’s work in context to this period.  He thought about canvas surface and paint as more than a tool for depiction of a certain reality.  The materials, stood for themselves in an idea in context to the entire work itself.  This for me, is the definition of modern painting.

When you look at most of his work, you will see a subject featured of course; but when studying the corners of the work, a small and powerful abstract painting emerges that is sometimes more interesting than the central subject.   This is when you realize that as he approached his 90’s he was almost blind and the brushstrokes might be a bit less “specific” and seem random; I have discovered they are so much more interesting and forceful to the eye and present him as more than just the postcard, you bought last week at the stationery store.


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