Claude Monet, influenced and inspired by his older contemporaries Pissarro and Manet, is known for his impressionist abstractions of the world. From his move to Giverny in 1883 he focused on the French countryside near his home and the gardens of the house itself. Of particular interest to me is the long-standing study of Grainstacks (although more commonly known as Haystacks) referring both to the discrete series produced from the summer of 1890 to the spring of the next year, capturing the year’s harvest in about thirty paintings, and a long-standing ongoing commitment to these simple structures of the French landscape. Grainstacks was intended to capture the stacks outside his door in changing light, in different seasons and different times of day. He was fascinated by the nuances and changes in the landscape. Through his first collection of thematic repetition, he captured the stacks in the blazing and vibrant colours of autumn and the liquid and diluted light of winter. Monet wrote to Gustave Geffroy, a journalist, art critic and historian (generally considered as one of the first historians of the Impressionist movement) about Grainstacks as follows:
“I’m grinding away obstinately at this series of different effects (grainstacks), but at this time of year the sun goes down so fast that I can’t follow it. . . the longer I paint, the more I see the work that is needed if I am to get down on canvas the things I want.” (Monet in (Wildenstein 2019) p344).
This approach of subject commitment over many years, is exemplified by the extraordinary series of impressions of Water Lilies produced in the last thirty years of his life, and changing over time, for example, becoming more abstract and taking on a more vibrant aesthetic after the death of his wife Alice in 1911. In Water-Lilies (1903) Nympheas for example, the lilies float effortlessly on the surface of the water, with the depth and luminosity varying with the light and shade of the French light. The reflection of an over-hanging willow tree breaks up the ethereal scene of creamy white petals and violet-blue waters. While The Water Lily Pond (1917-19) Le Bassin aux Nympheas reflects a bold colour palette and a less distinct rendition of these delicate plants. Perhaps due to his failing eyesight, this change in his painting style continued until his death. For example, Morning (1920-1926) First of the Decorations Rooms in the Orangerie, a compelling canvas depicting the depth and colours of the waters, with punches of cream, yellow and orange representing the water lilies.
In my photographic images I seek to capture some of the depth, luminosity and ephemeral qualities of the light and shade of the water and the captivating, yet fragile stems and blooms of reeds and water lilies at Loch Cill Chriosd, as Monet did in his paintings.
Wildenstein, D. (2019). Koln, Taschen.