Le Givre À Giverny - iPhone photo that iAccidentally shot in panorama mode.
Recently, I visited the Claude Monet: The Truth of Nature exhibit currently on view at the Denver Art Museum. After telling a friend this fact and how I thought it was really impressive and well done, she commented: “Well, you would know!”
“What do you mean?”, I said.
“You know so much about art!”, she replied.
A little taken aback, I explained that I did not, in fact, take any art history courses in undergrad, that my later degree from art school was very commercial photography focused, and that my work with local artists and galleries is only in a marketing capacity.
Aside from the smattering of museums I have been to, on a very short list of places, my sole art history lesson has been through working with BetterWall. Even then, my knowledge is limited to a cursory understanding of the artist’s works that reside on the inventory of museum banners that we sell.
While I clearly love and appreciate art, none of this, I contested, does an art expert make. This also left me wondering how-on-earth I could write an intelligent blog post about the comprehensive Monet exhibit I had just seen. Imposter Syndrome is real, my friends, very real.
As it turns out, I am in good company. While I procrastinated on writing this post, I decided, instead, to turn my attention the just-released Season Three of The Crown series on Netflix that chronicles the life of Queen Elizabeth et.al. We learned in a previous season that she felt quite intellectually inadequate as a young Queen, hiring a tutor to fill in the gaps of education she was denied in her “training” to be a Royal. Season Three brings us to her middle-age years, with a storyline about art and intrigue. Her Majesty is depicted as feeling unsure in her ability to speak knowledgeably about an exhibit of artworks borrowed from her own palace. She invites her “Surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures” to guide her.
There is an interesting twist based in historical fact, that I will let you discover. That twist adds another layer to the topic of how we create stories about ourselves and others. About how we can feel really confident moving through life and presenting ourselves—knowingly or unknowingly giving others an impression of who we are—while simultaneously feeling like there is some other truth, real or imagined, hidden beneath.
With my cat-out-of-the-bag, and with the Queen of England giving me a pass, I am relieved that you won’t expect a dissertation on the merits of the Monet exhibit. But I will say this: I felt privileged to be in a room with so many beautiful works of art, gathered from so many places, to land in our humble city. It was fun to look at the details and textures up close, then stand back to absorb the overall scene. I was particularly intrigued by the way Monet captured scenes of Winter —the subtlety of color used to create the illusions of snow, ice floating on a pond, and the bleakness of the landscape. I even loved discovering the hidden elements in his polluted, hazy skies of London. We saw many examples of landscapes that he revisited many times in order to capture it in different seasons or times of the day. My favorite piece, however, was the city scene we encountered at the beginning of the exhibit… Boulevard des Capucines, 1873, looking down onto the activity of a bustling Paris street (Scenes like that remind of my fascination with Richard Scarry books that I had as a kid).
My hope is that you are able to experience this show at one of its two stops in Denver or Potsdam, Germany, or that you have been lucky enough to view his works on display in other museums or private collections.
As I wrap up this post and continue to think about the initial conversation with my friend, about Queen Elizabeth and Claude Monet, I come away with the fact that in his focus on painting the same scene over and over again, the artist, ironically seemed to have wanted to discover the truth of a place, rather than just the passing impression that it seemed to offer.
Boulevard des Capucines, 1873
"The Break-up of the Ice," 1880
"The Break-up of the Ice," 1880
"Haystacks, midday," 1890
"Waterloo Bridge, Sunlight Effect," 1903
"The Duck Pond," 1874
"Under the Poplars," 1887 - Detail
"The Meadow at Vétheuil," 1879 - Detail
"Nympheas (Waterlillies)," 1914-1915