Monet’s Rouen Cathedral.
in the early 1890s, Monet painted more than thirty versions of this cathedral’s facade, lit at various times of the day. I saw these paintings for the first time at the National Gallery in Washington DC. Two of them hang side by side, One in the deep purples and blues of a late afternoon, the other in clean, yellow sunlight. I was completely floored by them. I stood in that tiny corner gallery until I was dragged away to the rest of the building. I returned a couple days later, alone, and probably stared at those paintings for ten minutes. Back and forth, those windows, those arches, those spires, those columns. Pushed and pulled in and out of focus by the light hitting different sides. I moved on to the Van Goghs around the corner, Seurat’s Seascape at Port-En-Bessin, Normandy in the adjacent gallery. But I always wanted to return to Claude.
I like Impressionism. I remember having a book when I was a kid called Felipe in Monet’s garden. It was about a frog (spoilers, his name was Felipe). All of the illustrations included or were based around the hundreds of water lilies paintings Monet painted late in his life.
I would not say I’m particularly knowledgeable about art movements, artists, or influences and such. I may be able to point out Seurat and Picasso, tell you I’m looking at Pointillism or Cubism, but really only for the most famous and/or obvious artists. I’m sure I don’t have particularly refined or original tastes. But I know what I like and I don’t like. I’ve always been fascinated by MC Escher. I like surrealism and Dali. I like Van Gogh and Monet.
I went to The Met in New York for the first time last weekend. My friend and I split up early on, and I just wandered. No rhyme or reason, not even a destination. I started in Greek and Roman vases and statues. I wandered through Polynesian art and Oceania. A beautiful 50 foot canoe on display, used for fishing, travel, and headhunting. Baroque furniture turned to medieval iconography turned to an egyptian temple in the middle of the damn Met. I finally made my way upstairs and into the painting galleries, and out of nowhere my friend grabbed me and dragged me back in front of another Rouen Cathedral. I was spellbound. I never wanted to leave.
There is so much stuff in that building. I could spend another week at The Met. I want to go back every weekend. I want to pull a “Mixed-Up Files” and live there forever.
This friend told me once the first time she went saw a Monet exhibit, she literally started sobbing. I’d like to think one day I’ll find SOMETHING, a film, a show, a photograph, a painting, that will move me enough, offer no other choice than to break down in pure emotion.