Sunday, February 27, 2011

Monet's Water Lilies -- An Artist's Obsession

Yesterday, Saturday, Susan and I visited the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum in Hartford, Connecticut.

I knew the day was to be a day filled with beauty; soon before we left our home I saw this beautiful female cardinal in our backyard sitting on the iron sculpture which holds our Bird-feeder:

As soon as we entered the small gallery where nine Monet's paintings hung, I saw a quote on the wall and I could not but think of my dear and longtime friend, Tara Dillard:

It took me time to understand my waterlilies.
I had planted them for the pleasure of it;
I grew them without ever thinking of painting them.

I photographed no paintings in the gallery as we were asked not to and all of the beautiful works of art are available for viewing online. But here is a photographed of mine of water lilies at Fitzgerald Lake in Northampton, Massachusetts:

Allow me, please, to share with you a few more works of art we enjoyed in the museum. 

Here we find happiness looking at a "Paris Street Scene" by Jean Beraud:

Susan and I are both great admirers of Pierre BonnardHis wife Marthe was an ever-present subject over the course of several decades:

I loved this portrait by Jean-Édouard Vuillard:

And this lovely still-life by Odilon Redon:

And this Monet, Beach at Trouville, painted in 1870, years before the his obsession with water lilies (Monet bought the property at Giverny in 1890):

In my mind this painting must have had an influence of photographers of the time; yes, and even today, and this is why great photographers know of the history of art.

Let us pause for a moment and read a few lines from Alfred Lord Tennyson poem, The Lady of Shallot:

On either side the river lie
Long fields of barley and of rye,
That clothe the wold and meet the sky;
And thro' the field the road runs by
To many-tower'd Camelot;
And up and down the people go,
Gazing where the lilies blow
Round an island there below,
The island of Shalott.

Willows whiten, aspens quiver,
Little breezes dusk and shiver
Through the wave that runs for ever
By the island in the river
Flowing down to Camelot.
Four grey walls, and four grey towers,
Overlook a space of flowers,
And the silent isle imbowers
The Lady of Shalott.

For more information go here and you will also see the marvelous painting, "The Lady of Shallot," which hung in my dormitory room (NOT the painting, of course--the poster!)  by Sir John William Waterhouse. At the Wadsworth, we find The Lady of Shallot as painted by William Holman Hunt:

We said our goodbyes to our friends the Pre-Raphaelites. And then we found more beauty in this portrait by Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun, recognized as the most famous woman painter of the 18th century:

We concluded our visit to the museum viewing paintings from The Hudson River School. I have taken some liberties with my photographs of the paintings here, the first by Frederic Church and the second by Thomas Cole; but first, here, is a painting we saw by Albert Bierstdat:

And we conclude our day with:

One last observation: that's Susan standing in front Cole's Mt. Etna, Taormina, Sicily, 1843; when we got home and enjoyed a pizza in our sitting room, there was on TV a show about Sicily and Mt Edna!

If you want events in your life documented or are looking for distinctive nature, portrait or wedding photography--photography with soul that inspires you
to live a more artful and beautiful life,


  1. What a delightful day you and Susan had. Time spent together enjoying paintings of the masters.

  2. Thanks for sharing all this. Beauty all around, inside and outside. Monet is timeless, but you are absolutely right, so are water lilies.
    I wouldn't say the same of the painting's frames though :-) but with a Monet "inside" I wouldn't mind it either.

  3. What a feast! Thank you, Bruce.

  4. A beautiful day... thank you for sharing a bit of it with us.

    Ours ended with split pea/ham hock soup with homemade sourdough. :)

  5. Now this is a wonderful and playful examination of a day stretching back into time itself. I've had a love affair with the Lady of Shallot since I was a teen. She tugs at me still. But I have to say it is the two final pictures that take me the furthest. I love the contrast of them both, as though time is held to time, a mirror, another element of Shallot.


  6. Thank you....very nice....a feast indeed!

  7. Glorious paintings, glorious photos. I happened to post a sepia photo on my RUMI DAYS blog today.

    That last image of Susan . . I had to think and rethink, because I knew it couldn't be taken in 1843! :-) What a very cool portrait of her, in front of that painting. Wonderful juxtaposition and composition, and then synchronicity! What is the image above that one? I really like it in its abstractness.

  8. I meant I posted a sepia photo of a waterlily . . .

  9. Ruth, That painting is "Valley of St Thomas" by Frederic Church.


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