I visited Paris recently and while there spent time in the Orangerie, standing before Monet’s beautiful series of Water Lily paintings. What struck me most is the different emotions contained in each painting, from tranquil to agitated, light to dark, as each canvas reflected a different period of the day or different season of the year. I looked on them as a reflection on light, on the passing of time.
However, since coming back I have read that Monet painted these works after the death of his beloved Alice, moving from the more realistic portrayal seen in his earlier style to the abstract swirls and splashes used here. So more than a reflection on light, they are a reflection on love. These huge circular canvases around the walls come to represent eternity, and the emotions within them the never-ending love which he found in that relationship. Not all light, but shadows and shades. But all within the beauty of a love remembered.
I come again to see
the serene, great picture that I love.
Here space and time exist in light
the eye like the eye of faith believes.
The seen, the known
dissolve in iridescence, become
illusive flesh of light
that was not, was, forever is.
O light beheld as through refracting tears.
Here is the aura of that world
each of us has lost.
Here is the shadow of its joy.
Robert Hayden, Monet’s Waterlilies