Monet’s Inverted Landscape

Monet_the water-lily pond

Claude Monet, Water Lily Pond, 1919. Oil on canvas, 39 3/8 x 78 7/8 in. Paul G. Allen Family Collection

Visitors have enjoyed the “wall of Monet” in Seeing Nature: Landscape Masterworks from the Paul G. Allen Collection, on which three stunning works by the artist are displayed side by side. In 1883, Claude Monet moved to the village of Giverny, France, and set out to convert his home into a source of inspiration for his art. A passionate gardener, he transformed his property into an idealized landscape that expressed his interests in Eastern culture and ideals. Here, as in many of his later works, Monet gives equal attention to the trees, plants, sky, and water, creating an abstract amalgamation of tone and shadow. He also inverts the right-side-up orientation of the traditional landscape: the viewer looks down into the sky, which is reflected in water that acts as a mirror.

Paint What You Sense: Monet in Vétheuil

Monet_landscape on ile-saint-martin

Claude Monet, En Paysage dans I’île Saint-Martin, 1881. Oil on canvas, 28 13/16 x 23 5/8 in. Paul G. Allen Family Collection

Bright and warm, Claude Monet’s En Paysage dans I’île Saint-Martin (on view in Seeing Nature: Landscape Masterworks from the Paul G. Allen Collection) depicts a nearly perfect day. Monet painted this scene in Vétheuil, a small village forty miles west of Paris, where he lived with his wife and two children, as well as the family of his patron, Ernest Hoschedé. In settling in Vétheuil, Monet hoped to find not only creative inspiration, but also imagery that could be translated into salable pictures that would replenish his dwindling financial resources. Filling the canvas with loosely applied dashes of brightly hued paint, Monet captured light and atmosphere—a goal shared by his fellow French Impressionists. One of the original members of that group of avant-garde painters, Monet painted what he sensed, not just what he saw.

Monet in the Morning

Monet_Val-Saint-Nicolas

Claude Monet, Val-Saint-Nicolas, near Dieppe (Morning), 1897. Oil on canvas, 25 1/2 x 39 3/8 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC, Acquired 1959

I’ve always been a day dreamer, often getting lost in my thoughts as I fail to finish my homework. In my mind appears landscape after landscape, ranging from my home country, France, to vistas from remote places around the globe. Although my window allows me to see outside, I long to see a different view than the office building across the street. For this reason, if I could choose one painting from the Phillips to hang in my bedroom, it would be Claude Monet’s Val-Saint-Nicolas, near Dieppe (Morning) (1897). The cliff side in this work can be seen as an allegory for my longing to travel: showing me the horizon of possible destinations from my bed or desk. On rainy or foggy days, its palette brightens my room; the soft yet bright colors of the painting reflect around my walls on sunny days. Val-Saint-Nicolas serves as a window to a parallel universe where I can let my mind wander as the cliff and rocks come to life, adorned with multicolored flowers. The gentle brushstrokes produce a soporiferous effect on me and sleep comes easily.

Of all the paintings in the Phillips, the only one I would want hanging in my bedroom is this one, which produces the utmost calm in me, soothes me, and allows me to be in connection with my senses.

Olivia Bensimon, Marketing & Communications Intern