By Christopher Heinrich
If you can’t get to Melbourne for the Monet’s Garden exhibition you could make do with the Taschen reprint on the artist by Christopher Heinrich. It is 20 years old but is still a clearly written account with lots of intelligent insights into the artist's work.
It includes an extensive chapter on Monet’s garden at Giverny which he secured in 1890 when he had secured his financial position.
He subsequently bought more land and progressively turned it into the garden which the Figaro art critic Arsene Alexandre on first seeing it in 1901 described as “all the colours of a palette, all the notes of a fanfare: that is Monet’s garden”.
The book explores the life of an artist who was probably the most typical and the most individual Impressionist painter. His long life was dedicated to a pictorial exploration of the sensations which, in a particular landscape, are taken in by the human eye.
But while Monet the painter was faithful and persevering in the pursuit of his motifs, his personal life followed a more restless course.
Parisian by birth, he discovered plein-air painting as a youth in the provinces, where one of his homes, Argenteuil, has come to represent the artistic flowering and official establishment of Impressionism as a movement, with Monet as its creative leader.
In his endeavour to capture the ever-changing face of reality, Monet went beyond Impressionism and thereby beyond the confines of self-contained panel painting: in Giverny he painted the Poplars, Grain Stacks and Rouen Cathedral series in which he addressed one motif in constantly new variations.
He thereby sought to render not reality as objectively experienced, but rather that which takes place "between the motif and the artist".
In their open, merely tenuously representational structure and impressive scale, Monet’s water lily paintings – created long before the currents of the contemporary avant-garde – point the way to the developments of the future.
The well-written text is illustrated with 100 colour illustrations and there is there is a detailed chronological summary of the artist's life and work, covering the cultural and historical importance of the artist.