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


  1. Monet is my favourite artist ...I saw a marvelous exhibition in Sydney at the National Gallery January this year for my birthday ...I think that it was a traveling exhibition from Boston.

  2. I so enjoy living vicariously through...Seuss, Monet, Cynthia...yeah!

  3. Sarah,

    What a wonderful birthday gift! Thanks for coming over!


    chuckle, chuckle, chuckle...your a dear! Nice to have your company!

  4. I was the same as you about Monet, liked him intensely then moved away from his ever present flowers and then much later, realized just how staggering was his work and use of's magic.

    don't you love bloggy friends, they are the best! And it's good to see you again, my dear, if only for a few minutes :)

  5. Thank you for a wonderful review on a book I must look into for my daughter!

  6. We have this book (and doll),you are right, so wonderful. I hope my granddaughter will love it, she's still a bit young.
    Oh! Jack Johnson. His music is beautiful & humble, he's so unaffected,yet a big name now.He lived here (my town)but Hawaii is home. When he comes here he plays at the Santa Barbara Bowl to a sold out crowd. And when the lyrics are about S.B. the crowd goes wild.

  7. I love this song too!

    By the way, I am trying to generate some support for our daughter. I entered her into a Smile Contest, so if you could please vote for her (just once), the contest runs until October 31st. Your vote would be so much appreciated.

    To cast your vote, please go to this link. Please look for Jillian Rylie Cottrill.

    Thank you very much for your help!

  8. I recently fulfilled a dream to visit Monet's garden at Giverny...It did not disappoint because it is exactly as we have seen in his paintings. The light was extraordinary and his love of colour apparent not only in the garden but in his home. Lovely post Cynthia, xv.

  9. "How can something that looks like nothing up close be so clear at a distance?"

    Exactly! This is the perfect statement to apply to all of life's experiences. I think you're well on your way to planting that garden.

  10. What a wonderful post. I love how vividly you recollect your time with your sister visiting the gallery and how excited you were for the journey. Look how it has stuck with you for all of these years. I love impressionist art. I think it is extraordinary how purple and red can become the perfect shade of skin color from far away. The men and women who created these beautiful pictures are geniuses. As for reading, you are very lucky to have had that book club and that aunt. I come from a household of writers. I was hooked on books from day 1. My Dad would read Arabian Nights to my brother an I late at night, and my mom would religiously take out library books for us to have in our hands at all times. I own many books, but am still a huge fan of the library system. I love the idea of going into this huge treasure trove of books and discovering a new tale that's waiting for me locked away in pages on a shelf. I am always reading a book---it is my mental safety net. I just finished God Bless You Mr. Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut Jr and am starting a book by a Parisian woman about the essence of style. What a great post and a valuable one too. xoxoxoxo--one of 365

  11. Lovely treatise, beautiful review, graceous shout-out to our blog friends who write for YA. Thank you.

  12. I do like Monet and sometimes thinking about popping over to Giverny to see the garden. My cousin went there recently and was most disappointed - apparently the garden is divided by a railway line running through it

  13. I saw the Monet traveling exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago some years ago. His work is so wonderful in person. That special light just can't be reproduced in photos.

    I would love to visit Giverny some day.

  14. Monet gets over-reproduced to feel like a cliché, but there is nothing like sitting in a gallery surrounded by his lilies. Except maybe visiting his gardens in Giverny. I did both in my last visit in April 08 – back when I was living in England and Paris was only a train ride away.

    That must have been before we connected in cyberspace as impossible as that sounds because it feels like we’ve known each other for years. I hope you get to go to France some year.

    You are so sweet to thank authors for writing for younger readers. I thank you for taking the time in your blog to get the word out about good books and fine art. I’m sure your children came to their interest and talent in art thanks to your influence. Your blog enriches our life too. I always feel soothed and happier after visiting.

  15. I loved this post because I adore impressionism. Everytime I go to the National Gallery here in London I always make it compulsory to pay a visit to the Impressionism and Surrealism galleries. Many thanks for that lovely post.

    Greetings from London.

  16. I love the play of light in his paintings... and I love the way the light circles around everything you post my friend,

    Much love, M

  17. Thank you all for commenting, you all are so wonderfully warm- "My heart runneth over..." I will come over and visit you soon.

  18. I was thrilled to read your blog today...I have collected Linnea books and have the stuffed cotton dolls to match the books. I love these! I too discovered them when my daughter was younger and as of yet have not given up my collection. A great way to enjoy Monet! Thank you for reminding me. I guess I should take these out for my grand daughter now, and hope she enjoys the book as much as my daughter did! So happy to know they have a suitcase puzzle set and DVD.Catch ya later....I'm goin' shoppin'!!

  19. Oh Cynthia, how kind of you! It is what we do it for, following a dream and an ideal that we're not just amusing ourselves but sending something nice out into the world (certainly we're not doing it for the money!) and wondering where the ripples will intersect.
    It looks like a lovely book. I saw the Water Lilies in New York some (cough) 3 decades ago, when I was a young art student. I walked into the room, sat on the first available bench, and simply drank it in.

  20. Hello Cynthia. Happy to see you are still on the top of your game. Last fall I visited the National Gallery of Canada while visiting Ottawa and had an opportunity to get up close and personal with a few of the Gallery's Monet collection. What struck me dumb was watching people walking thru the gallery as though they were walking thru a shopping mall. Oblivious to the historical great and famous works surrounding them. It made me wonder why they were there. I could go on and on but I think you catch my drift. Thanks for another thought provoking piece.

  21. I think Monet's work has inspired millions all over the world. Even you, writing this post. A Monet garden would be so lovely...

  22. I bought the books and the doll when my youngest came along. Beautiful. Just..beautiful

  23. Hi Cynthia, I really like the new look to your blog, I came over to say Hi and see you've been busy, it looks lovely.
    I hope your having a great week,
    xxx lori

  24. Hi Cynthia,
    Thank you for visiting and I love your blog. I was also an early fan of Monet and saw the paintings in Paris in l'Orangerie. But I don't think I appreciated them as much as when I saw them at the MOMA in NY. There were walls and walls of them and it felt like someone had dipped me in Monet.

    Recently, a blog friend of mine wrote a post about being in Monet's garden. So I wrote about it too. I've never been there, but have experienced similar feelings being in such a setting. You are very lucky to have been exposed to impressionist paintings at such a young age and how wonderful that you transferred this joy to your daughters.

  25. I remember seeing Monet's water lily's at the Art Institute of Chicago as a kid. It made quite and impression. It's so important to expose your children to art and music early on. It inspires the joy of living.


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