Is there more than one Monet?

A Monet is a Monet is a Monet – or is it? If we only think of Claude Monet as an impressionist painter then there are paintings in his life’s work that one might be reluctant to claim as a good representation of Monet’s work. In this sense, I am going to propose that there is more than one Monet when considering his work and also that he has offered us more than he is usually given credit.

The tight small dabs of sometimes pure colour associated with the “impressionist years” and his large lily paintings come from different approaches and the latter from a mature use of all that he knew. I come to this understanding following my visit to “Claude Monet’s Secret Garden” exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery which has a dozen or so works from his impressionist period and then goes on to focus on his late years of painting when he was troubled by cataracts and a legitimate fear of having surgery at the time.

The impressionist paintings are of medium size, easily portable and distinctive in their approach using small short brushstrokes and dabs of colour to capture the effects of light on a landscape. Here are a couple of my favourites from the exhibition.

Snow Effect, Sunset by Claude Monet 1875

Field of Yellow Irises at Giverny by Claude Monet 1887

Later Monet lived on his garden property for 40 years. This is where he started to study light in its deeper complexities. This is where he observes light changing every seven minutes and lamented that if he didn’t finish a work one day the next could not be counted on to give him the same conditions to continue the work. To compensate, he worked on up to 20 prepared canvases at one time changing them out as the light shifted or if the day was different.

The Seine at Port-Villez, Rose Effect by Claude Monet 1894

The Seine at Port-Villez, Evening Effect by Claude Monet 1894

The “Claude Monet Secret Garden” exhibition has many large canvases which Monet was able to work on in his 70 and 80s because he was working from home in his garden and the paintings could be moved in and out of the studio as needed.

Life can either knock the stuffing out of us at times or allow us to reach something we may not have been able to do otherwise. Sometimes it does both. During the First World War Monet could hear the fighting from his home studio as he worked. Around this time he was also grieving from the death of second wife and one of his sons. Grief and not being able to see clearly from his cataracts are both possible causes for a change in work during this period.

These rich deep hues are so different from his earlier works, yet there are clues that these are indeed by his brush. These renderings are completed with large expressive brush-marks with the colours blended right on the canvas! Clearly these paintings are something different from his early impressionist paintings and definitely leading us towards what was to come next in post-impressionism and expressionism.

Water Lilies by Claude Monet 1916-1919

“I only know that I do what I can to convey what I experience before nature and that most often, in order to succeed in conveying what I feel, I totally forget the most elementary rules of painting, if they existed that is.” – Claude Monet, 1912

What he couldn’t see he could still feel, hear and touch. Monet had been painting for so long that he had a well established habit of placing his paints in the same place on the palette. He did not need to see well to continue to paint with excellence!

Monet painted the oval lily paintings and the wisteria paintings (which were suppose to go above the lily paintings) while he had cataracts. In 1923 Monet had cataract surgery. By this time he had suffered with them for 11 years.  He destroyed some of the paintings from that time and reworked others once he could see clearly again. And yet, other paintings feel like they were left as they were – though the date of completion on this one suggests otherwise.

The Japanese Bridge by Claude Monet 1918-1924

The information card tells me that Monet completed twenty paintings of this bridge and the body of work is among his most abstract. These later works often show bare canvas in places along with these free loose and large brushstrokes. Would Monet consider the paintings finished? I believe so simply by looking at the continuation of his work during this period of his life. However, these works were in his own personal collection. They were never sold. So it does beg the question of whether he was unsatisfied with them and so didn’t put them up for sale or if he made a decision to keep them for his own appreciation.

The exhibition shows two gorgeous wisteria paintings having some 5- 15 layers of paint and still feeling like each brushstroke has been applied distinctively, accurately – alla prima! In the end, there was no room for showing these wisteria paintings with the lily pond paintings as originally planned. To honour Monet’s original intention for the wisteria paintings, the Vancouver Art Gallery did a curved display wall.

The paintings shared in these images (for personal study use only) are some of the 38 paintings out of 94 that were in Monet’s private collection at the time of his death. These paintings will be showing until October 1, 2017 at the Vancouver Art Gallery in British Columbia. The paintings are on loan from the  Musée Marmottan Monet in Paris. I feel extremely fortunate that I was able to take a half day to be with these works so close to home. If you get a chance, do go and do take the tour after spending sometime getting to know the paintings being shown. Then go through and look again with your new understanding of why these particular works were selected.

If someone was to ask if there was more than one YOU worth knowing what would you say?

© 2017 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.

Liberal usage granted with written permission. See “About” for details.

Creative Potager – Visit with painter and photographer Terrill Welch

From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada

For gallery and purchase information about Terrill’s photographs and paintings go to http://terrillwelchartist.com

Beginning at the End with Monet

When we walked into the Vancouver Art Gallery to join the line up, it was five minutes after opening. As we entered the visitors were jammed up at the beginning of the “Claude Monet’s Secret Garden” exhibition showing 38 out of 94 of his paintings that had been in his personal private collection. So we walked through the middle of the show and went to end and this is where I am going to start today. Monet’s last painting followed his cataract surgery and he was extremely excited to be able to see clearly again. The painting is listed as “Les Roses” in the exhibition but it is also known as “The Rose Bush” elsewhere online. It is huge at maybe 5 x 9 feet or 6 x 9 feet. I am not exactly sure because I couldn’t find any reference to its size either with the exhibition materials or online. But here it is.

“Les Roses” or “The Rose Bush” by Claude Monet 1925-26.

Please note: all images of Monet’s work have been shared for personal study. No image can be used for any other purpose.

Let’s take a moment and explore what we notice about this work. What stands out to you? How is this work maybe different than what you thought you knew about Monet’s paintings? How is it familiar with what you already know?

I personally had no knowledge about this painting and was so surprised to see it. My first thought was – this isn’t in my extensive reference books on Monet! But then I doubted myself until I could get home and check. However, I was right. This painting is in neither of my complete (or rather incomplete) volumes of Monet’s life’s work.

I was mesmerized and absolutely fascinated with this painting. He would have been 85 to 86 years old when he did this work during the last year of his life. What a way to finish his many years of painting!

It took four years to negotiate the exhibition between the Vancouver Art Gallery and the private Musée Marmottan Monet in Paris France.  The Vancouver exhibition is showing 38 out of 94 paintings in the collection. In 1966 Monet’s son, Michel Monet, left the Musée Marmottan Monet his own collection of his father’s work, thus creating the world’s largest collection of Monet paintings. My only complaint is that there is no catalogue sharing some of the stories I am going to retell to you here based on my notes of the guided tour for the exhibition which, if you get the chance I highly recommend you partake. First walk through and become familiar with all 38 paintings. Don’t waste time reading the chronology and notes on the wall because this can be found online and in other books later. Next do the tour. Then go through the exhibit one more time to integrate what you have learned. If you live in the Vancouver area and can go more than once – do! It is much more economical than a trip to France.

Often, we hear timing is everything. In Monet’s case there are a couple of events around his time in history worth noting.

In 1839 photograph was developed, one year before Monet born. Before this time it had been up to painters to record the realism of events and paint portraits of famous and not so famous people. Paintings were a visual record of events. Photography was expected to change all this and there was speculation that  this would be the end of painting. I mean why labour over a painting when you can have a photo-realistic image in a flash!? By the time Monet was attending art school he would have been in the thick of this debate. Now, particularly for those of us that are both photographers and painters, we better understand the limitations of photographic realism which is limited and has difficulty capturing our lived experiences due to camera distortion and limitations in rendering natural light. But photographs were all new and filled our imagined possibilities at the time. To this day, there are splits in painting approaches between high-realism, full-sensory painting impressions and expressionism abstraction. Personally, I find these splits more theoretical than directly applied to painting practice by painters (and the older I get the more I notice this) but it is worth noting these divisions just the same.

In 1841 tubes of paint were invented by American artist John Rand, one year after Monet born. Up until this time a painter had to mix the pigments with oils, grinding them together to the right consistency every day or at the very least every few days. The painter, or their assistants, had to a difficult task to accomplish before they could ever begin painting a chosen subject. Hence, most painting was done within the studio or indoors. Tube paints changed all this. They stayed usable for long periods of time and were easy to transport out of doors – hence painting en plein air became possible and popular in the years following. The invention of tube paints was a game changer for painters and painting practice – even in the studio.

But let’s go back to “Les Roses” and take in those fragrant blooming brambles one more time. Notice how the paint is mixed right on the canvas, blended and swept together in large gestural movements. Look at the painting close and then step back from your screen and see how the roses themselves disappear into the swirls of colour. Take note of how Monet leaves parts of the canvas bare near the edges. This is not because he wasn’t finished but rather because of an aesthetic of allowing the painter’s process to be visible or letting paint be paint.

In next week’s post we will speculate about how he came to this place in the last large painting rendered at the end of his long and productive life.

What impressions come to mind as you view “Les Roses” by Claude Monet?

© 2017 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.

Liberal usage granted with written permission. See “About” for details.

Creative Potager – Visit with painter and photographer Terrill Welch

From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada

For gallery and purchase information about Terrill’s photographs and paintings go to http://terrillwelchartist.com

A Tall Tale of Autumn painting resting and another Emily Carr story

With the holiday season upon us, I truly should put the paints away and get cards and presents ready for delivery. But one more I said to self, just one more to make it an even 50 paintings completed this year. That was last Thursday.

There are no work-in-progress images only this one that was taken as the painting came to rest. Forgive me if you have already seen this painting in progress, along with 8, 965 others last time I checked the post on Google plus alone.  It has now had two small edits, wee clean-up adjustments and will get its final photograph soon. But it seemed to be asking to be my Monday morning blessings image for mid December 2013 and so here we are.

Why a tall tale of such a simple autumn painting, you might ask? It is because the combination of fog and memory keep it from a cleaner truth. These are my childhood trees – popular trees growing on the riverbank. They are my first subject of paintings. I cannot pick up a brush to render them without being transported back through time with its many stops before these trees. These are trees I met before there was even a field in front of them. These are trees I introduced my first lover and later others. Then much later my now husband. These are trees I walked beside while I carried my babies and then with them while they carried theirs. These are the trees that my mother and father have walked with me since they were younger than I am today. Painting the spaces of light and shadow in between is filled with the residue of many visits. It is a tall tale that gets taller with each telling. All I intended to do was to use up the paint leftover on the palette.

A TALL TALE OF AUTUMN STUART RIVER resting 16 x 12 inch oil on canvas

A Tall Tale of Autumn Stuart River resting 16 x 12  inch oil on canvas by Terrill Welch 2013_12_12 019

This time of year is family time and I suppose in my case tree time. Which brings me to another tall tale and that is a strange happening last Friday on December 13th. I happen to notice that the Creative Potager blog views were going a bit crazy. So I looked and it was this post “Emily Carr Mystery Solved” from November 9, 2010 more than THREE years ago! What could it be I wondered? Well after a couple of hours and views were still piling up from Canada I did bit of sleuthing. It was Google.ca who was celebrating the Canadian landscape painter with a doodle on their home page. What you might ask would this have to do with my very old stale dated blog post? It had to do with what came up when a person clicked on that doodle. The image and search results included this blog post right near the top, not at the very top but near enough to entice the curious. So belated 142 happy birthday Emily Carr, another painter of trees.

For those in Vancouver, British Columbia over the holidays  an exhibition of more than 40 forest paintings by Emily Carr will open at the Vancouver Art Gallery on Dec. 21, 2013. Emily Carr: Deep Forest will run until March 9, 2014. The show spotlights works created by Carr in the 1930s, most of them depicting scenes within 25 kilometres of her Victoria home. The paintings in the show are almost all drawn from the Vancouver gallery’s permanent collection. The gallery is home to the most significant collection of Carr’s work in the world, comprising 254 paintings, drawings and other works.

So there we have it two tall tales and a blessing of trees all round!

 

What tree or trees might you offer a blessing on this fine winter Monday?

 

© 2013 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.

Liberal usage granted with written permission. See “About” for details.

Creative Potager – Visit with painter and photographer Terrill Welch

From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada

For gallery and purchase information about Terrill’s photographs and paintings go to http://terrillwelchartist.com

 

Emily Carr my kindred spirit

It is morning on Wednesday October 13, 2010. We pack quickly to leave our Mayne Island home and stay overnight in Victoria. We are going to see a screening of a new documentary film Winds of Heaven: Emily Carr, Carvers and the Spirits of the Forest by Michael Ostroff. The write up about the film was one of the few items noteworthy in our withering Saturday addition of the Globe and Mail national paper –which recently went glossy and appears to have dumped the last of its journalistic content. Finding reference to my kindred spirit, Emily Carr, has however, saved one of its pages from the recycling box.

Emily Carr, a larger-than-life icon of Canadian west coast art was born in 1871 and died at age 74 in 1945. How dare I be brass enough to call her my kindred spirit? It is because of her ordinariness along with her greatness. She often speaks in humble frustration in her reflections about her paintings and writing.  There are only a few exceptions in diary entries when she allows herself a quiet moment of pride for her accomplishments. One glance at her paintings tells another story. She held nothing back in her paintings.

Carr’s powerful strokes and clarity of vision bring large cedars and western landscapes to their knees at the feet of her brush, only to release them again to push skyward across the breadth of her canvas. It is within my experience of this contradiction, and her visceral struggle with her art, that I call her my kindred spirit.

“If the work of an isolated little old woman on the edge of nowhere, is too modern for the Canadian National Gallery, it seems it cannot be a very progressive institution.” Emily Carr, On the Edge of Nowhere Gallery quote

When doubts and fears about my ability as an artist threaten to keep my brushes from the paint or my fingers from pressing the camera shutter down, I read the diary pages of Carr. I know if my tears leave stains on the pages she will understand and that we will both be out of bed again in the morning, giving it another go – together.

I now have a new reference point to breathe vitality into Carr’s life and work. It is Michael Ostroff’s documentary film Winds of Heaven. Michael spoke about the difficulty of finding a fresh approach within the many fingerprints that traipse across all primary source documents of Carr’s writing and the many eyes that have critically gazed at her sketches and paintings. Well, in my opinion, he has brought the spirit of Emily Carr alive with the same strong powerful impressions, skillfully tethered together, as Carr did in her paintings. The documentary is being screened across the country and will be released in March. I plan to add one of the DVD’s to my library shortly thereafter. I want it close by so it is within reach when doubts raise their sneering heads in the corners of my studio. Then I will then count my blessings.

“I think I have gone further this year, have lifted a little. I see things a little more as a whole, a little more complete. I am always watching for fear of getting feeble and passé in my work. I want to pour till the pail is empty, the last bit going out in a gush, not drops.” Emily Carr, On the Edge of Nowhere Gallery quote.

Carr had no digital camera and sketched quickly with oil on paper before working up her paintings back at the studio. I can both sketch and take a photograph for reference. Carr had no community of contemporary artists to muse with her through her blog, twitter and facebook. She had to write letters and send them by post to her friend Lawren Harris. He had to reply in the same manner. Something I would find too tedious for daily inspiration. In poetry she had Walt Whitman where I have both Whitman on Mary Oliver. She was isolated in her work as much as she was in her geography.

When, even now women represented in museums around the world is only about 5%, she would not likely have called herself a feminist or a ground breaker for women’s art. She would likely have said that she was an artist who just happened to be a woman. Indeed, if a showing a few years ago at the Vancouver Art Gallery of women artists who were her peers are any indication, she would be right. Her work left those of other women artists in a shadow of insignificance. To be fair, gender may not be the deciding factor of what art work is left in her shadow.

Next, I will give thanks for each diary entry, and each story in the 893 pages of her writings. Finally, I will bow my head in gratitude for the dedicated work of Ira Dilworth, Doris Shadbolt, and now Michael Ostroff for ensuring that I have these unique views and access to the life and work of Emily Carr.

After the screening, Michael Ostroff commented during the discussion, that he wanted to “put Carr in the context of her time.” He has done more than that. He has put British Columbia in the context of its time. He shared her struggle to create a vision as it took him five years to find the funding and complete this incredible film which includes our experience with rugged wilderness and history of unsettled land claims.

Through my life as an artist going right back to childhood, Carr has always been just out of sight, leaving me marks to follow as I forge my own artistic path. I feel Carr’s kindred spirit as I work – not in her brush stroke but in the strength and reverence for her west. I am not a scribe for what is before my eyes but rather that which is before my heart. My Emily understands this. I can tell you facts about her life – such as her breakdown while going to art school in Europe or the 15 fallow years when she lost her will and only painted seven works and stopped writing in her diary. I can tell you that her best work came after this time while she was in 50’s. I can tell you that she was loved but never married. I can tell you these things but it will be far more meaningful if you read her writings for yourself and if you browse the pages of Doris Shadbolt’s The Art of Emily Carr or if you go to The Greater Victoria Art Gallery and stand in front of her paintings and see the trees swaying as they reach skyward or if you watch Winds of Heaven by Michael Gostroff – a documentary that adds value and depth to all other experiences of a Canadian artist, a great artist, a woman artist, Emily Carr. May you also know the life and art of the Emily who sits beside me as I work.

References are linked within the post.

Sprout question: What great artist encourages you while you work?

And you might like this later post as well “Emily Carr Mystery-solved” https://creativepotager.wordpress.com/2010/11/09/emily-carr-mystery-solved

© 2010 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.

Liberal usage granted with written permission. See “About” for details.

Purchase photography at http://www.redbubble.com/people/terrillwelch

Creative Potager – where imagination rules. Be inspired.

From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada