Two weeks ago, while trapped in the ill-fitting, damp denim jacket of depression, I slipped into the airy expanse of the Denver Art Museum. We were there to see a once-in-a-lifetime exhibit that is visiting nowhere else in the U.S. besides Denver. It’s called Claude Monet: The Truth of Nature. While an art exhibit is not enough to cure my mental malaise, it certainly helped.
Monet’s art is just up my alley: nuanced, filled with light, and nature-focused. I could not choose a favorite if I tried. To some extent, each room was dedicated to a particular time period in Monet’s life. There were some parts that compared paintings of the same subject done at different times, but for the most part, the chronological organization helped show the progression of his style from something close to realism into distinctive impressionism. We saw the poplar trees, the haystacks, the waterlilies, and so much more. We saw the ice of the frozen Seine and the roses of his beloved garden. We saw the paintings up close, inspecting the details and sudden colors, and we saw them from far away, brushstrokes blending into a strikingly clear image.
I was particularly taken with his ability to render water and reflections. At mid-distance, there is an overwhelming illusion of depth in the water he painted. It’s like you could just dive right in. Upon closer inspection, I marveled at the sheer number of colors and shades he used to achieve that effect, and the shapes that brought the water together. From a distance, I lost sight of the intricacies but was captivated by the image as a whole.
Monet was driven by a desire to capture specific moments in time, and to represent them as true to nature’s beauty as possible. Part of that beauty is how it looks, but part of it is how being in nature makes you feel. Monet’s art is about how afternoon light is different from morning light, and how the same scene makes you feel at different times. It’s about atmosphere: how ripples in water convey emotion, how cliff faces can be sinister, and how perspective changes everything.
While in the exhibit, I overheard a mother and her young daughter discussing a painting. The daughter asked if there was glass covering it, to which her mother replied “No,” there wasn’t.
“Then why is it shining?”
“That’s just his painting.”
It was tiring but well worth it. I’m thankful that I got to immerse myself in this exhibit, and that my brain allowed me to enjoy Monet’s shining paintings.