I spent the Wednesday before Thanksgiving with a passionate Frenchman. This artist, (see if you can guess his name), was born in 1840. “Every day I discover more and more beautiful things. It’s enough to drive one mad. I have such a desire to do everything, my head is bursting with it.”
A print of this impressionist’s famous waterlilies hangs in my living room but until last Wednesday, when I attended the Milwaukee Wisconsin Center’s immersion event, I hadn’t realized how much I (and you too, I’m guessing) have in common with him. Even though he’s been dead for 182 years, his work allows us to reflect on our own passions.
The experience began with colorful spotlights changing the mood of realistic garden photographs. Projected on cloth, the gentle air circulation in the room made the gardens seem to sway with the wind.
After reading various quotes and information, I walked through a shimmery “waterfall” of streamers into a large open area. Modern technology projected the painter’s art on every surface of the oval infinity room from floor to ceiling. It felt like I was inside the paintings themselves. Set to music, the art came to life with scenography that created moving trains and sailboats. Yet it wasn’t technology, but the passion of the artist that allowed me to ride the stormy seas, breathe in the scent of fragrant poppies, stroll alongside a woman carrying a fancy parasol in a picturesque French village, and wade in lily-ponds.
Searching for inspiration for his waterlily paintings, he bought marshland and created a water-garden. Weeping willows, iris, and bamboo grew around the reflective pool filled with lilies and exotic lotuses. As a final touch, he added a Japanese bridge. He believed “No one is an artist unless he carries his picture in his head before painting it and is sure of his method and composition.” The pond helped him study reflection and how the color of the water transformed with the changing sky. Maybe you, too, carry the finished image of your creative project in your head.
“More than ever, despite my poor sight, I need to paint and paint unceasingly,” he said. What is it you need to do? What haunts your thoughts, or engages you so thoroughly you immerse yourself and lose all sense of time?
Similar to this ambitious creator, famous for his various haystack images, are you also a perfectionist, repeatedly reworking and experimenting until you “have the light” just right? Do you revise recipes, fuss with just the right wood stain, try out various paint samples and furniture arrangements as you redecorate or keep reworking a quilt design or piece of art?
“I want to paint like a bird sings,” he said. “I want the unobtainable. Other artists paint a bridge, a house, a boat, and that’s the end. They are finished. I want to paint the air which surrounds the bridge, the house, the boat, the beauty of the air in which these objects are located, and that is nothing short of impossible.”
Immersed in the presence of such genius, one feels inspired to conquer their own “impossibles.” Like his art, the words of this passionate artist, Claude Monet, hold great power.