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“Poppy Field in a Hollow near Giverny” by Claude Monet

"Poppy Field in a Hollow near Giverny" by Claude Monet

“Poppy Field in a Hollow near Giverny” by Claude Monet

“Poppy Field in a Hollow near Giverny” by Claude Monet was painted in 1885 in a region that is just 80 km (50 mi) northwest from Paris, with rolling hills and cultivated fields of poppies and wheat. Monet roamed this region during his first few years after arriving at the village of Giverny. Although Monet had started to plant in his garden shortly after he moved in Giverny, his garden had not yet developed and bloomed to a stage that it could match the surrounding countryside. Monet instead turned to the nearby poppy fields, which offered a dynamic and varied display of natural colour and beauty for his inspiration.

Giverny sits on the “right bank” of the River Seine and is best known as the location of Claude Monet’s garden and home. Claude Monet noticed the village of Giverny while looking out of a train window. He made up his mind to move there and rented a house and the area surrounding it. In 1890 he had enough money to buy the house and land outright and set out to create the magnificent gardens he wanted to paint. Some of his most famous paintings were of his garden in Giverny, famous for its Japanese bridge, the pond with the water lilies, the wisterias and the azaleas.

Beginning around 1887, several American Impressionist artists also settled to work in Giverny, drawn by the landscapes, the atmosphere, and the presence of Monet. The term Decorative Impressionism was coined in 1911 to describe the work of a “second wave” of American painters who exhibited in America as the “The Giverny Group.” Unfortunately World War I marked the end of the art colony in Giverny.

Giverny is near Vernon, where the Battle of Vernon took place during 1944. During the battle, British forces lost 600 men in 4 days, Germany lost 1,600 men and 12 French Resistance fighters were killed. The goal of the Allies was to cut the retreat of the occupying forces by destroying the bridges over the Seine river, as well as the railroads. Thus 60 years after this painting, of the field of red poppies, blood was again being spilt in the hollows.

Claude Monet

Oscar-Claude Monet was a founder of French Impressionist painting, and the term “Impressionism” is derived from the title of his painting Impression, “soleil levant” or “Impression, Sunrise”, which was exhibited in 1874. Monet adopted a method of painting in which he painted the same scene many times to capture the changing of light and the passing of the seasons. Monet is known for having produced a series of paintings all versions of the same subject and perspective. Examples include his series of the “Valley of the Creuse” series and his famous series of “Haystacks” and “Water Lilies” paintings.

From 1883 Monet lived in Giverny, where at his home, he developed a garden landscape which included the lily ponds that would become the subjects of his best-known works. In 1899 he began painting the water lilies, first with a Japanese bridge as a central feature, and later in the series of large-scale paintings, with the water lilies as the main feature. This series occupied him for the last 20 years of his life.

Reflections

  • Why do field poppies always remind me of the remembrance poppy that commemorates the war dead?
  • Why did I have to check if this hollow was created by war?
  • Why did this painting remind me of the war and death?

Remembrance Poppy

The remembrance poppy was inspired by the World War I poem “In Flanders Fields”. It’s opening lines refer to the many poppies that were the first flowers to grow in the churned-up earth of soldiers’ graves in Flanders, a region of Belgium. A Canadian physician wrote the poem in 1915 after witnessing the death of his friend, a fellow soldier, the day before.

“In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.” – John McCrae

In 1918, Moina Michael was inspired by the poem and published a poem of her own called “We Shall Keep the Faith”. In tribute to the original poem, she vowed to always wear a red poppy as a symbol of remembrance for those who fought and helped in the war. She then campaigned to have the poppy adopted as a national symbol of remembrance. As a result of hers and many other people’s efforts, it was adopted by many veterans’ groups.

“We cherish, too, the poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led;
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies,
But lends a lustre to the red
Of the flower that blooms above the dead” – Moina Michael

Poppy Field in a Hollow near Giverny

  • Title:               Poppy Field in a Hollow near Giverny
  • Artist:             Claude Monet
  • Year:               1885
  • Medium:        Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions:   Height: 651 mm (25.62 ″); Width: 813 mm (32 ″)
  • Museum:        Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Claude Monet

Claude Monet – Facts

  • Monet was Paris-born but was raised on the Normandy Coast.
  • Monet began drawing as a young boy, sketching his teachers and neighbours.
  • Monet had an estranged relationship with his father. His father did not support his artistic passion and was unwilling to help him financially.
  • In 1858, Monet met Eugène Boudin. Boudin became his mentor and encouraged him to paint “en plain air.”
  • In 1861, Monet was drafted into the army and join the First Regiment of African Light Cavalry, he served in Algeria, a territory that was then controlled by France.
  • Monet lived in Argenteuil from 1871 to 1878, where he was drawn to the natural beauty, and he painted 170 canvases during his time in Argenteuil.
  • For the year of the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874, Monet painted the Argenteuil Bridge seven times.
  • Japanese art fascinated Monet, attending a Japanese exhibition in the 1890s. He amassed a collection of more than 200 Japanese prints over the years.
  • France’s traditional art institutions were not fans of the Monet’s style. The saw his style as “casual” and “incomplete.”
  • His style focused on perception, capturing outdoor scenes by using rapid brush strokes.
  • In his late 20s, Monet was depressed and struggling to support himself and his family financially, Monet jumped off a bridge in 1868. Fortunately, he survived his fall.
  • Monet destroyed hundreds of his works due to bouts of frustration and self-doubt.
  • Monet was baptised Catholic, but he went on to become an atheist.
  • Monet disliked traditional art schools. So he became a student of Swiss artist Charles Gleyre. It was here that Monet met Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Frederic Bazille and Alfred Sisley.
  • With the younger artists,  Monet explored new approaches to art like distinctive brush strokes and accurate depiction of light and unusual visual angles.
  • Outdoor painting was critical in developing his style. He created a series of pictures where he explored the effects of rain, mist, smoke, and steam on landscapes and objects.
  • The term “Impressionism” was used as a derogatory label in a critical review of artists who used the Impressionists style; it was borrowed from Monet’s painting title called “Impression: Sunrise.”
  • Monet claimed that he titled the painting Impression, Sunrise due to his hazy painting style in his depiction of the subject.
  • In his most famous series of twenty-six views of Rouen Cathedral, he broke tradition and cropped the Cathedral views, so that only a portion of the facade is seen on the canvas.
  • Monet’s favourite model was his first wife, Camille Doncieux. She appeared in around 32 paintings.
  • Monet’s second wife, Alice Hoschedé, was irrationally jealous of his first wife who had died.
  • Monet suffered from cataracts in his later years.
  • In 1883, Monet moved to the small village in Giverny and spent ten years building the water garden where he painted perhaps his most famous works.
  • As Monet’s garden expanded, he hired six gardeners to tend to it.
  • One gardener’s job was to paddle a boat onto the pond each morning, washing and dusting each lily pad.
  • Monet’s series of Water Lilies consists of about 250 oil paintings which were painted during the last thirty years of his life.
  • Monet’s famous Japanese bridge over his Giverny pond remains to this day at his home in Giverny.
  • For the last 25 years of his life, Monet painted the water lilies in a series of paintings that water lilies in different light and textures.
  • In 1926, Monet died of lung cancer, at the age of 86.
  • Monet is buried in the Giverny church cemetery.
  • In 1980, his former home in Giverny was opened to tourists to see his gardens, woodcut prints, and souvenirs.
  • Monet’s Giverny garden, bedroom, studio, and blue sitting-room are open for tours.

Explore the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

~~~

” If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.”

– John McCrae

~~~


Photo Credit: 1) Claude Monet [Public domain]

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