Saturday, October 17, 2009
Monet Makes an Impression
Oasis Feature: Books that Matter
~~~~~When I was sixteen years old, I took an art history class with my mother at a local community college (Wayne County Community in Michigan). It was my first college class (I was still in high school!) and I was anxious to do a good job. I carefully took notes, memorized painting names, periods, and styles. I was particularly drawn to the Impressionist Art Movement, and Claude Monet (1840-1926) was my favorite. Since then, I've felt Monet's work was over printed, frequently with poor color quality, so I moved away from his work. Recently, though, I've come back to Monet. (Isn't that how life is?) I'm re-captivated by his life story, gardens, and art. I feel he continues to have so much to offer those of us who appreciate life, light and beauty.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Claude Monet's Garden and photo credit
~~~~~The conclusion of the art history course involved an unofficial trip to Chicago to attend a special exhibition of Monet's water lily's at the Art Institute of Chicago. How exciting to take a train with my sister, Pamala, and older classmates, all the way to Chicago! I was excited about the trip. When we arrived in the art gallery's circular room, I sat in the center at a bit of a distance to get the best view. Up close, as you know, it looks like dense color and rough texture. (There are two oval rooms in France at the Musée de l'Orangerie, which were created to show eight of Monet's water lily murals.) I'm still processing that first encounter with Monet's art.
How can something that looks like nothing up close be so clear at a distance?
Similar to life, it seems experience and meaning sharpen with time. Even painful, boring, or muddled periods make some sort of sense after that life epoch passes. Did you know that much of Monet's later work was painted when he was suffering from cataracts? I've noticed that as my own vision declines...(cough), I've started to see how puzzling life pieces and past events might fit more neatly together. I'm beginning to see how I've gotten to where I am in life.
~~The book is a green enchanted vacation into a life rich with experience and bursting with insight.~~
~~~~~Monet came back again when my daughter was young when I discovered the magical and educational book, Linnea in Monet's Garden (by the Swedish writer Christina Bjork and illustrated by Lena Anderson.) (1985/87) This book takes you on a charming visit with a young girl and her grandpa-like neighbor, Mr. Bloom, to visit Giverny and see Monet's gardens. Though this is an easy-to-follow book, it is substantial. It is a way to go into art history with your child and sow the beginnings of a reading garden. The illustrations of Linnea moving around Paris and the gardens, her curiosity and engagement with people, animals and plant life; the accurate biographical information about Monet and his complicated family dynamics, which is supported by old photographs, just enlivens the discovery experience!
~~~~~It's the kind of book you will enjoy reading aloud, if you share it as a picture book but also makes a great gift for a 9-12 year old. I read it to both of my children many times. If you like, you can buy a little Linnea doll who wears a white apron to cover her black outfit and a round straw hat. Cute. There is also a DVD of the story, which I haven't seen but has received great reviews. I recently discovered that there is a new Linnea suitcase puzzle set that I would love to get. What I like about these extensions of the book, is that they continue to bring Monet back into the child's experience.
~~~~~It is so important to absorb the imagination in books while children are still young enough to connect affection from a parent with the words on a page. It teaches them a way to feel comforted at any time, to satisfy their urge to dream, and provides the bonus of literacy-a method to implement their dreams. With five small children, a full-time job and night classes, my own mother didn't have the luxury of time to offer shared reading time. Through some sort of luck, a membership in a Dr. Seuss club that brought books to our house every month, and an aunt who gave them as Christmas presents, I was able to learn to love books. Today as I open the pages of Linnea , I remember my vicarious stays at the Esmeralda Hotel near Notre Dame Cathedral with Linnea, Mr. Bloom and my own children. To know that this hotel is a real place is delightful! It is so enjoyable to travel in a way that might actually be duplicated in the future.
Oh, I do want to go to Monet's garden.
Maybe I should make one here at my land-based Oasis?
~~~~~I am thankful that my mom encouraged me to go forward toward my dreams, to study, and to connect that experience with real life adventure- even if we couldn't read together.
And to all of you writers out there- Sarah Laurence, Beth Kephart, and the painter/illustrator Frances Tyrrell , to name a few, who address the younger audience, thank you for offering your gifts to the reading community. You actively impact and enrich our lives.
~~~~~I like this song. I'm sending it out to all the bygone people who were good, solid and inspirational! Only I add the caveat that good people can be found all around- especially in the land of blog.
Jack Johnson, Good People