When I think of Monet, I remember the very moment I learned to appreciate impressionism. It was 5 am in China and the sun was still unrisen. I was the only breathing creature rustling on the front porch of the dormatory. The picture was otherwise silent. I took a few minutes alone each morning to appreciate the air I breathe, the texture of the breeze on my face, and to gather my goals for the day.
As the sun began to rise and the scenery changed, I couldn't help taking notice of the light and how the brights and shadows worked together to create the world we see. In this somewhat unusual time-lapse moment, I finally paid attention to the light that I couldn't normally "see". As I stood there overlooking a mirrored pond among the swooping eves and weeping willows, the wind picked up and the willows' branches caressed the waters below creating ripples on the once still sky-reflection.
Suddenly, rain sprinkled across the water adding seemingly entropic ripples in the thousands. The reflection of the clouds looked as if Monet was everpresent in nature, and at that moment, I understood. I understood he saw the light in a way others before him had not noticed. I understood he captured evasive moments by observing instead of judging. I finally got why his work belonged in museums and history books. And I was grateful that he showed us a different way to see.
Is Monet's work still relevant today? Yes, it's timeless because the lessons are timeless. Observe the truth of what you see; don't merely presume. Do you need to understand Monet? Neeeed? No. But the more you understand, the more you could appreciate and appreciation feels reeeeally freakin' good! Also, it leads to more empathy and creates new neural pathways, so win-win-win!
Btw, these pictures above are just a couple of approx 1500 photos I took during my stay in China; pre-mainstream digital photography, peeps. The old-school way really taught us to look at things differently as we didn't rely on Photoshop and other editing equipment to do the work. We manually did it with our cameras by selecting f-stops and shutter speeds, evaluating the lighting situation, trying to capture that once-in-a-lifetime moment.
Now it sounds more like, "Siri, brighten this shit." No more dodging and burning in the darkroom til the wee hours of the morn. Truthfully, I love the practicality of today as technology has come to save tremendous amounts of time and grief. I dropped a finished roll of 36 into a pond in Old Shanghai as I was trying to reload my camera; sad times. To get the B&W and color shots above, I had to carry around two cameras. Thank your lucky stars young'uns! Life is not as much a nuisance as it used to be in some regards.
Anyway, back to light... Check out the ripples in the above pics. Look at both light and shadow. They need each other. They give something of themselves that the other lacks. Color can translate to B&W and vice versa, but they each still have their unique strengths. Monet was able to capture the dancing light in a unique way. At times, his paintings almost appear to move, like a GIF or live photo.
He has a peaceful sense of beauty that accentuates the best of nature's landscapes, but also teaches us how to see the moment-to-moment changes in a still image. He shows us how to appreciate light as if it won't last; and it won't. Days fade into nights and life fades into death. The bright side is that the cycle repeats. But that's a convo for another time.
Tell me you don't feel the fleeting sunset here! ... The bittersweet end of day. On that note...