By: Yelin Gemma Lee
Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG), in collaboration with Le Musée Marmottan Monet, brings the well-known impressionist artist Claude Monet to our doorstep with the Secret Garden exhibit. The exhibit is up until October 1 and has been an attraction for both locals and tourists.
According to the VAG, the exhibit boasts to be “the most important exhibition of French painter Claude Monet’s work in Canada in two decades” and as ignorant as I am to art history, I will say that the 38 paintings that were flown in from Paris were absolutely breathtaking. I loved the theme of Secret Garden — Monet was known to be an avid gardener as well as a rebellious impressionist painter. He experimented with capturing moving images and figures and the exact light variables and colors that coincided in that moment.
“The most important exhibition of French painter Claude Monet’s work in Canada in two decades.”
–The Vancouver Art Gallery
Monet’s waterscapes and waterlilies are some of his most famous paintings, and for good reason. He captures the flow and kaleidoscopic surface of the water in different times throughout the day and during different seasons. Through daring to paint freely and against “the most elementary rules of painting,” as he once said, he became a master of painting illusions of spatial depth, particularly in nature.
As someone who enjoys painting, but is absolutely terrified of oil painting (which is what Monet used to create most, if not all of his paintings), I was mesmerized by the movement captured in each image. One thing I loved about this Monet exhibit was that you could see repetitive paintings at times — for example “Nymphéas” was the name for two of his very similar paintings on display, one done in 1903 and the other done throughout 1916–19. The dedication and the fact that he revisited a painting to try another version of it over a decade later is admirable for an artist like me that is constantly trashing rough drafts and dissatisfying finished pieces.
I love that I also got to know Monet a little bit through this exhibit. As you near the end of the exhibit, you reach the final stretch of paintings that are when he began to lose his eyesight. His paintings drastically changed, but they were so recklessly beautiful and held so much emotion in each stroke that I could feel years and years after he painted them. “I will paint almost blind, as Beethoven composed completely deaf,” as Monet once said. His determination to continue painting stoked a fire in the artist in me.
His garden was the inspiration for over 250 of his paintings, which is also truly impressive to me — he gave to his gardens as much as the gardens gave to him.