Claude Monet: The Waterlily obsession

Museum Orangerie

14 november-11 march 2019

A virtual experience by Nicolas Thepot

When I was a child my mother brought me to Giverny, a small town not too far from Paris. I didn’t know why this was chosen to be our destination and was simply excited by journey, changed scenery around and later, when we eventually got there, by huge bright parrots that were flying in the sky or sitting on palms. I had no idea yet that this trip somehow would change my life.

We came to a wonderful cozy house with lots of painting, flowers, lace and books. It felt like home. There were lots of black-and-white photos of an old man with beard, mostly wearing a hat. I was told that was the owner of the house-one of the most prominent painters, Claud  Monet.But the most amazing thing about this place was a garden behind the house which was considered by the artist as “his most beautiful masterpiece”. That was a kingdom of nature and magic. One could feel that breathing is easier here.  I was surrounded by plants and surrendered  to their charms. The best part was a pond covered with waterlilies. I have never felt such peace before or after. I always remember about this place with that warmness and attachment that is peculiar to child’s memories, I guess due to being a child my aim there was just to feel the place, I didn’t know who was Monet and was experiencing the garden only through myself without analyzing that as a subject of a great genius. Nevertheless that became the reason why I became a big fan of Impressionism and the most apparently of Monet as well.

So, after 10 years  you can imagine how happy I was to return to this enchanting garden again, completely by chance, being on one of the Paris banks of the Seine. Moreover, that was my first experience of virtual reality and that just fueled my nervousness.

I was equipped with a special headset and headphones and my adventure started.

I saw the museum’s vestibule designed my Monet where 8 panels of his watercolors are presented. I heard the sound of water- a quick flow was coming impetuously  through spaces that serve as doors. When the level of water had reached my breast and I  felt a little uncomfortably the room started to fade, gradually turning into the Giverny’s garden. I was standing in the middle of the pond, still with most parts of my body being in aqua. The day was chasing the night. Hot summer gave way to autumn, ruby colors were changed by winter and its peculiarly expressive diamonds in the sky, spring fluff was flying in the air while bugs were filling the place with their buzzing arias and wind was gently touching plants.

After that I got into a canvas of the master with him putting multicolored strokes of the brush. I could see the layers of his work and that was the first time I realized that they have them, that their meanings and observations are way more deeper than I used to think.

The culminate moment-cataract. Monet is not able to see red and yellow colors, with time there are only white and black left in his world. (So did I ) At this exact time his life and inner well-being was invaded by the First World War. Being in the age he suffered a lot that he couldn’t help his country anyhow. Thats why, when the piece was gained he donated his Water Lilies to France with only one condition-those paintings could never leave the walls of the museum. He was offering Parisians a “Heaven”:  “Nerves strained by work would relax I. its presence, following the restful example of its stagnant waters, and for he who would live in it, this room would offer a refuge for peaceful meditation in the midst of a flowering aquarium.” (Monet,1909) Waterlilies were presented to public after his death in 1927 and attracted little attention as the art world of that time was more interested in the new avantgarde. The deserved recognition it gained only after the Second World War.

I was back again in Paris in a dusty room full of covered canvases. The man’s hat and a walking stick were on a coach. The last words to us said by Monet. Everything rotated and the space transformed into a nowadays hall of Waterlilies in Orangerie. There was no water anymore…no sign of what had just happened…as if it was a dream…

All this time I was accompanied with English audio description of some periods of the artist’s life and basically, what I was seeing. The information was very sensible including separate deep voice for quotes and parts from diaries of Monet.

When a singer loses his voice, he leaves the stage, the same fate suffer a painter who can’t see colors no more-retirement. However and fortunately, Monet couldn’t do that. And this is a significance evidence not only of his spirit strength but also of the talent. He was painting not seeing what he was actually creating. And  died without knowing what his heritage was.

Undoubtedly, now I feel and understand the artist better. Trembling I wanted to cry after that, overwhelmed by feelings and reflexions. That was like the one to one conversation with Claud – the experience I could never forget.



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