From the train window on the way from Paris, fields of brilliant yellow bordered by ones of deep green unfurled along the landscape. I could picture Vincent or his cronies sitting out with their easels and paints, feeling the color fill them up and overflow onto the canvas. This post is continued from Cézanne in Aix, Paris as a base, Van Gogh in Auvers, and Rouen and Le Havre.
Approaching the long ivied house with green shutters, Claude Monet’s home, one would never have guessed the profusion of flora hidden behind it. Every color was represented, and there were lots of bulbs for early blooms since it was springtime. The sun played hide and seek with the clouds and there was an occasional sprinkle, but not enough to discourage visitors.
Walking through Monet’s extensive gardens and around the water lily pond was almost surreal, like stepping into his paintings.
At the pond where the famous water lilies float, not yet in bloom, the Japanese bridge was an arc of color. The size of the pond was much larger than I had expected. Walk around the pond with me…
There was an unusual sound, like creatures talking. I was looking around for ducks when a French woman said to me, “French frogs—they are laughing!” Looking closely, you could see a few hopping across the lily pads. I was laughing too. I imagine they lived there while Monet was painting.
And inside, Monet’s charmingly decorated house was full of his Japanese woodblock print collection, reproductions of his paintings, and photographs of the artist himself.
I didn’t spend much time in town.
The following week, I traveled on to visit a dear friend in Prague. I walked with her and her sister through a museum of Czech paintings. The sister described the feeling of recognition, surprise, joy, and appreciation when confronted by a painting that you know, that had touched you in reproduction or print before you saw the actual object, the real thing, in person. Seeing the intensity of the artist’s work, the palpable brushstrokes, the texture of the piece as well as the visual impact. She pointed out her favorite Czech painters’ works that made her feel that sense of wonder and, seeing them with her, although I don’t remember the artists’ names and may likely never see their works again outside of the Czech Republic, they made an impression on me as well.
Likewise, spending time in the towns that had inspired the Impressionist artists whose paintings I loved, had made those places, and the people that painted there, come alive for me.
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