Monet’s Garden

A while ago I visited The Barber Institute in Birmingham to see their loan of one of Monet’s Lily Pond paintings

Monet and the Water Lily Pond…in Birmingham!

This visit inspired me to take the pilgrimage to Giverny in order to see for myself what inspired such outpourings onto canvas of some of the most beautiful tranquil scenes.

Take a few moments to peruse some of the most glorious scenery that translated onto canvas so well:



Monet and the Water Lily Pond…in Birmingham!

“It took me a long time to understand my water lilies…. I grew them without thinking of painting them…. And then, all of a sudden, I had the revelation of the enchantment of my pond. I took up my palette.”

—Claude Monet, 1924

Monet and the bridge

Monet’s garden was his inspiration in his later years and it is a real delight to welcome ‘A Water Lily Pond’ to the Barber Institute of Fine Arts in Birmingham, for a short stay.


The Water Lily Pond- Claude Monet 1900 © Art Institute of Chicago

This is such a beautiful and tranquil scene: the depth of colour makes you feel that you are standing on the edge of the pond, gazing into the shadows formed by the willow in the background.  Pink, white and red of the flowers of the water lilies dot across the surface and where there are breaks, the water reflects back the foliage.  The technique that defined Impressionism is in abundance here. Wet on dry gives the shapes of the flowers and the daubs are thickly applied.

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The angle of this painting causes your eye to travel up and over the bridge and into another part of the garden outside the canvas, so it is easy to imagine yourself in Giverny.

The work is with the gallery until 10th September.

For a detailed look at the painting, this link to the online catalogue at AIC is an excellent resource.

AIC Online Catalogue

Daubigny – Inspiring Impressionism

Did my fourth country visit in the Six Week holidays by going to Scotland this week – yes, I know it’s a technicality but I’m having this as a stat! 

I visited the Scottish National Gallery for the exhibition ‘Inspiring Impressionism’ which explored Charles Francis Daubigny’s influence on the artists who became known as the Impressionists. 

Daubigny was, as the labels described, “a pioneer of modern landscape painting” due to his loose painting style. 

Heavily criticised by the critics, he was championed and admired by the young artists, Monet, Pizarro, Sisley and Van Gogh. The exhibition juxtaposes their work with Daubigny. What was noticeable was the following set of characteristics that directly influenced the radical change. 

Daubigny would: 

  • Use wide format canvases 
  • Painted ‘en plein’
  • Covered the canvas with a gteyish-white ground which helped with illumination
  • Used small brushes and liquid paint for small detail, but broad, sketch-like handling elsewhere
  • Included images of contemporary detail, showing reality rather than an idyll
  • Skies dominated canvases with the horizon line being low. 

From an informative point of view, this was really good- learnt a lot and saw some lovely works by the other artists, but Daubigny’s work did leave me a little cold until I saw the painting at the top of this page.

Entitled simply, ‘Sunset Near Villerville’, this work from 1876 dominated the room. The contrasts of the hot oranges of the sunset with the blues in the sea were breath taking.  

Being a lover of Turner’s sunsets, I know I am not seeing anything new, but what amazes me is how you can be moved by something so simple as thickly daubed, brightly coloured oil paint that represents something we see almost every day. This photograph doesn’t really do it justice as the sun almost burnt itself off that canvas. 

A lovely work! 


Inventing Impressionism: Paul Durand-Ruel and the Modern Art Market

Yesterday was a new experience – an exhibition at the National Gallery and it was all about the impressionists.  Apart from the iconic pieces, I did not know a great deal about the main artists of the time until I read ‘Claude and Camille’ by Stephanie Cowell:

The exhibition centres on Durand-Ruel’s relationships with the penniless artists of Montmatre from the late 1860s onwards.  Seeing some of the most famous pieces of work from Monet, Manet, Renoir, Pissarro, Sisley et all was impressive and each room took us, chronologically, through the history of Impressionism.

The first room had the two famous Renoirs, Dance in the Country and Dance in the City: dance-in-the-country-1883-1dance_in_the_city

What I hadn’t known is that it is the gentleman in both paintings.  By using the same model, it gave me a sense of a story between these two and by being up-close, you can see how the two women behave quite differently.  The country girl looks out at us and her ruddy cheeks, smile and the way she clings to her partner, give the impression of a young girl at her first dance with the man she loves.  His body language does seem to indicate that the feeling is mutual.

In the city however, there is now a formality that is there on the surface. She is modestly facing away from the viewer and her cheek is firmly pressed to his shoulder.  His arm is keeping her close to him and you can almost sense the disapproval at such closeness being shown.

As you go through the rooms, you are confronted with portraits, landscapes, seascapes, interiors; it was enjoyable and there were some outstanding pieces, but, as always, I was more drawn to the darker, more melancholic subjects and I spent a lot of time with Monet’s Railroad Bridge and Manet’s Moonlight at the Port of Boulogne.  Both of these put me in mind of Turner with his Rain, Steam and Speed and The Sun Rising Through Vapour.


Being keen on the industrial past, Monet’s depiction of the heat of the engine, the headlights burning like devil eyes and the dark, clinging smoke was excellent and contrasted with the snow beautifully.  Manet’s moonlight takes a lot from Turner’s painting, as did the huddled women waiting for the spoils of the boat in the foreground.  Despite the room being busy, the works draw you into these scenes and you get a real sense of what the two artists were trying to show.


Lavacourt under Snow

The best painting came towards the end of the exhibition and it was another Monet, Lavacourt under Snow.  This was truly stunning.  The shadows in the foreground give the snow a crispness and creates a cold atmosphere.  However, the pinks and violets of the hillside where the evening sun hits, is so beautiful.  The story behind the painting is that the National Gallery actually refused the gift of this painting from the French Impressionist Fund, who raised the money to buy this painting for the nation.  The one they chose was very dull in comparison and it was only when it was left to the gallery as a bequest, did they finally receive it.

Some time ago, I watched a documentary Tales of Winter which explored the way Winter has been depicted.  I don’t think you can better it with this.





Claude et Camille

Have just finished Stephanie Cowell’s fictionalised account of the relationship between Monet and Camille Doncieux.

Inspired to read it by seeing this painting of Camille on her death bed in a documentary that explored how winter appears in art. This is so touching a tribute that I was curious to know more.


It is a meticulously researched story and Cowell brings the character of Monet to life. The other Impressionists do remain as shadows in the background, but it was a pleasant read all the same. A good way to start off the holiday.