Poppy Talk

Claude Monet (1840-1926) Poppies 1873 Oil on canvas H. 50; W.65 cm © RMN (Musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

Claude Monet (1840-1926) Poppies 1873 Oil on canvas H. 50; W.65 cm © RMN (Musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

Each year, as the months lean toward Easter, a blessed event occurs around the corner from where I live.  A curbside swath of rubyred poppies appears, resurrecting themselves from the earth. They herald the entrance to an enormous Catholic Church and the grounds crew let them grow wild and free – the truest of devotions. Reminds me of this graceful Monet I saw many years ago at the Musee d’Orsay in Paris.

I am entranced by the tumbling poppies, rolling down the hill, caught in the thrall of spring. A lovely lady in a straw bonnet leads the stroll, swinging a pale blue parasol. Children’s finger’s find the poppy heads an irresistible pluck. The manor hills loll behind.

Monet underscores the peacefulness of this pastoral setting  by equally proportioning the expanses of sky and field. The diagonal sweeps of red poppies bring a sense of motion and pull you in to the composition, inviting you to join the party. If you draw a line  between the mother and son grouping on the hill and the mother and child group on the plain, you will see that it follows the line of the poppies.  Your eye meanders down this imaginary path, anticipating the figures walking down the hillside.

A big tree blossoms from the mid-ground, puffs skyward, adding motion and charm. You find the  manor house hidden like an Easter egg in the background. And the sky, the glorious sky with clouds that waken your sleeping soul. You remember skies like that, the ones that make you think you’ve seen eternity.


If I were a frog. . .

What happened when I entered the Monet room at the MOMA? I can tell you I wasn’t expecting the vistas of water and light that engulfed me and left me gasping in slight pain.  These mammoth waterlily canvases are 14 ft long – each one. Six feet high. The three of them are side by side by side along one long wall – – that’s 42 feet.  You are literally swimming around in this canvaspool of color.  If I was a carp or frog, I’d die and come here, to Monet heaven.

Water Lilies Claude Monet (French, 1840-1926)  1914-26. Oil on canvas, three panels, Each 6' 6 3/4" x 13' 11 1/4" (200 x 424.8 cm), overall 6' 6 3/4" x 41' 10 3/8" (200 x 1276 cm). Mrs. Simon Guggenheim Fund

Water Lilies Claude Monet (French, 1840-1926) 1914-26. Oil on canvas, three panels, MOMA, Mrs. Simon Guggenheim Fund, New York

This one is my favorite.  I’m captured by the sapphire blue, deep violet-purple and the little points of red. I had a little print of this one in my college dorm room. It got me through alot of teen angst.  How was I to know that it was so extraordinarily large?  This little poster drop of peace was in reality, a tremendous baptismal of beauty.  What else am I missing in life. . .what else is there to discover?

Water Lilies Claude Monet (French, 1840-1926)  1914-26. Oil on canvas, three panels, Each 6' 6 3/4" x 13' 11 1/4" (200 x 424.8 cm), overall 6' 6 3/4" x 41' 10 3/8" (200 x 1276 cm). Mrs. Simon Guggenheim Fund

Water Lilies Claude Monet (French, 1840-1926) 1914-26. Oil on canvas, three panels, MOMA, Mrs. Simon Guggenheim Fund, New York

Most of Monet’s  paintings are small because he painted al fresco and needed to be mobile, but these were painted at a special studio he designed at Giverny.  Monet originally wanted these to be displayed on curved walls, obscuring the visual boundaries to capture the essence of one of the hardest things to paint – water.

Water Lilies Claude Monet (French, 1840-1926)  1914-26. Oil on canvas, three panels, Each 6' 6 3/4" x 13' 11 1/4" (200 x 424.8 cm), overall 6' 6 3/4" x 41' 10 3/8" (200 x 1276 cm). Mrs. Simon Guggenheim Fund

Water Lilies Claude Monet (French, 1840-1926) 1914-26. Oil on canvas, three panels, MOMA, Mrs. Simon Guggenheim Fund, New York

Here’s the shady area of the pond. The cotton candy pink is fluffity deliciousness!  Unfortunately though, the shade didn’t stop there; Monet developed cataracts as he aged. In the face of that harsh reality we call “life,” we still have the chance to create a piece of heaven.