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Since my last visit to L’Orangerie they did a major change: moved Monet’s two oval Water Lilly rooms from the basement to the top floor, with a big architectural restructuring.  The new space has filtered natural light from the ceiling, and seems cleaner in design, and more spacious (though I imagine that is just a trick of the light.)  The other collection, which I find rather weak, is now banished to the basement.

I have spent some hours in these two rooms, some time ago with a DV camera, before they installed little barricades, dancing a few inches from the surface, shooting the wonderful painterly delirium which was Monet’s world.  Once I watched an older American woman brush her hand against the surface – which is quite textured and rather invites a tactile approach, though the woman was promptly reproached by the guard.  I find myself wondering about most of those who come to this, as in a pilgrimage, an obligatory tourist matter, as they sit on the benches and gaze.  Few come actually close to the surface of the work, but sit back at a distance, where the abstraction of painterly coloring forms a diffuse impressionist image of water, lillies, tree trunks, reflections.     Only a few move close, where the scale of the work takes over and immerses one in a sea of painterly effect – strokes of the brush, the gentle build-up of color, the textures, taking in one’s whole sense of vision.  Monet was clearly here a precursor of the abstract expressionists, of color field artists like Rothko or Morris Louis, demanding that you immerse yourself into the totality of the painting, which in a push-pull manner reveals itself as precisely painting, and as a sublime spiritual experience of pure color and in a Heideggerian sense, “being”.  One goes into this kind of painting and experiences the hard reality, literal paint, and in doing so it makes a quantum leap to something else.   My guess is those that sit on the bench and see a pond with water lillies do not get this.

Just what each of us sees, I am not at all sure.  What I am sure of is that Monet made a work of art that will last as long as we humans care about such things.



    • Ryan Harper Gray
    • Posted January 24, 2011 at 11:46 pm
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    • Reply

    Thanks for posting. I really needed this today.

  1. The Orangerie and the Rodin Museums are my two favorites. So thank you for covering both of them!


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