Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Portal of Rouen Cathedral in Morning Light

The climax of Impressionism:
Claude Monet's The Portal of Rouen Cathedral in Morning Light
(Oil on canvas, 1894)

An introduction: I enjoy sharing messages that combine sacred thought with secular wisdom. I think that the two play well together. There are so many different things that can tie together a good message about our faith, love and hope in God. And, there are plenty of good messages that are worth sharing. Sometimes, it just takes moving in the slow lane of life, observing, and enjoying the journey.

Today, I would like to share a few thoughts about Claude Monet's painting of The Portal of Rouen Cathedral in Morning Light.

I love to go to art museums. They are a constant source of pleasure and inspiration. Often, after seeing a colorful work of art, I'll buy a picture postcard from a museum's gift shop to preserve the memory. Last week, I came across a picture postcard I bought last autumn of The Portal of Rouen Cathedral in Morning Light. After seeing it, I knew I wanted to expand my knowledge and learn more about the cathedral and this remarkable Impressionist painting.

The Rouen Cathedral is a Roman Catholic Gothic cathedral in Rouen, in northwestern France. It is the seat of the Archbishop of Rouen and Normandy. Construction of the cathedral was originally begun in 1202. Over the next few centuries, it was victim of not only natural disasters, but also fire and war. The current Rouen Cathedral structure was completed in 1880.

(A detailed description of the cathedral can be found via Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rouen_Cathedral.) 

During late winter of both 1882 and 1883, French Impressionist painter Claude Monet created a large series of paintings ~ more than 30 in all ~ of the Rouen Cathedral that depicted the same scene of the cathedral at different times of the day and year, reflecting changes in it and under different lighting conditions. Two of these paintings are in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.; one is in the Getty Center museum in Los Angeles, Calif.; one is in the National Museum of Serbia in Belgrade, Serbia; one is in a museum in Cologne, Germany; one is in a Rouen fine art museum; and five are in the Musee d'Orsay in Paris. 

The painting accompanying this essay is Claude Monet's The Portal of Rouen Cathedral in Morning Light. I had the opportunity to see this painting up close and personal during a visit to one of my favorite U.S. art museums, the Getty Center, in Los Angeles, in September 2011. I was most impressed by the color and beauty of Monet's painting of the Rouen Cathedral. Indeed, the cathedral series, exploring the color, light and form of a single subject at various times of the day represented Monet's most intense effort on a single site.

In a letter to describe The Portal of Rouen Cathedral in Morning Light, Monet wrote: "Everything changes, even stone." According to the Getty Museum's website, Monet vividly conveyed "a wondrous combination of permanence and mutability as the sun daily transformed for the facade of Rouen Cathdral. Extending the building's encrusted stone surface to the richly varied impasto surface of his painting, he portrayed the cathedral perpetually re-emerging in the suffused light of early morning."

The Portal of Rouen Cathedral in Morning Light has been called "the climax of Impressionism" and was later praised by masters such as Wassily Kandinsky and Roy Lichtenstein. Wrote Monet: "I have always observed what the world has showed to me, only to give testimony of it in my paintings." His friend, the French writer Georges Clemenceau, in an 1896 essay, wrote: "One notices that the art, in its persistence of expressing the nature with increasing exactitude, teaches us to watch, to perceive, to feel."

Indeed, in The Portal of Rouen Cathedral in Morning Light, Monet's painting shows us the courage of Impressionism at its finest.

Note: To view additional paintings in The Rouen Cathedral series, please see: http://www.theartwolf.com/monet_cathedral.htm 

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