Tuesday, August 25, 2015

I hope to produce masterpieces. Claude Monet (November 14, 1840 – December 5, 1926)

It is beautiful here [in Etretat, Normandy], my friend; every day I discover even more beautiful things. It is intoxicating me, and I want to paint it all — my head is bursting... I want to fight, scratch it off, start again, because I start to see and understand. I seems to me as if I can see nature and I can catch it all... it is by observation and reflection that I discover how. That is what we are working on, continuously.
Letter to his friend Frédéric Bazille, 1864

There are the most amusing things everywhere. Houses of every colour, hundreds of windmills and enchanting boats, extremely friendly Dutchmen who almost all speak French... I have not had time to visit the museums, I wish to work first of all and I'll treat myself to that later.
Letter to Camille Pissarro, 17 June 1871

[Camille Doncieux (1847 – 5 September 1879) was Monet's first wife; he painted her on her death bed] ...watching her tragic forehead, almost mechanically observing the colors which death was imposing on her rigid face. Blue. Blue, yellows, grey, what do I know?...
How natural to to want to reproduce the last image of her, who was leaving us for ever. But even before the idea came to me to record her beloved features, something in me automatically responded tot the shocks of colours. I just seem to be compelled in an unconsciousness activity, the one I engage in every day, like an animal turning in its mill.
In a letter, September 1879

I am absolutely sickened with and demoralized by this life, I've been leading for so long. When you get to my age, there is nothing more to look forward to. Unhappy we are, unhappy we'll stay. Each day brings its tribulations and each day difficulties arise... So I'm giving up the struggle once and for all, abandoning all hope of success.
...I hear my friends are preparing another exhibition this year [the Impressionists, in Paris, 1880] but I'm ruling out the possibility of participating in it, as I just don't have anything worth showing.
In a letter to George de Bellio, September 1879

I can’t hold out any longer and am in a state of utter despair. After a few days of good weather, it’s raining again and once again I have had to put the studies I started to one side. It’s driving me to distraction and the unfortunate thing is that I take it out on my poor paintings. I destroyed a large picture of flowers which I’d just done along with three or four paintings which I not only scraped down but slashed. This is absurd... Please be kind enough to have some money forwarded to me.
In a letter from Pourville (circa 1882), to his buyer Durand-Ruel

Once settled, I hope to produce masterpieces, because I like the countryside very much.
[About the countryside in Giverny] Letter to Paul Durand-Ruel, 1883

I am weary, having worked without a break all day; how beautiful it is here, to be sure, but how difficult to paint! I can see what I want to do quite clearly but I’m not there yet. It’s so clear and pure in its pink and blues that the slightest misjudged stroke looks like a smudge of dirt...
I have fourteen canvases underway.
In a letter from Cote d’Azure to his second wife Alice Hoschedé (ca. 1886)

Did you know that I went to London to see Whistler and that I spent about twelve days, very impressed by London and also by Whistler, who is a great artist; moreover, he could not have been more charming to me, and has invited me to exhibit at his show.
Letter to Theodore Duret, 13 August 1887

I am distressed, almost discouraged, and fatigued to the point of slightly ill... Never have I been so unlucky with the weather. Never three suitable days in succession, so I have to be always making changes [in his paintings] for everything is growing and turning green. And I have dreamed of painting the Creuse [river in the South of France] just as we saw it...
In short, by dint of changes I am following Nature without being able to grasp her, and then there is that river that shrinks, swells again, green one day, then yellow, sometimes almost dry, and which tomorrow will be a torrent, after the terrible rain that is falling at the moment.
In fact, I am very worried. Write to me; I have a great need of comfort.
In a letter to art critic and friend Gustave Geffroy, 24 April 1889

I was completely ignorant of the poetry of Poe; it is admirable, it is poetry itself, the dream, and how one feels that you have translated its soul! I am no more than a completely illiterate ignoramus, but am not any the less moved by it. I knew only Poe's prose, which I had read and admired very young before I had heard it spoken of, but how the poems complete and express the man he was...
Letter, 15 February 1889

For me, a landscape does not exist in its own right, since its appearance changes at every moment; but the surrounding atmosphere brings it to life — the air and the light which vary continually. For me, it is only the surrounding atmosphere which gives subjects their true value.
Claude Monet (1891)

I tell myself that anyone who says he has finished a canvas is terribly arrogant. Finished means complete, perfect, and I toil away without making any progress, searching, fumbling around, without achieving anything much.
Claude Monet (1893)

Nothing in the whole world is of interest to me but my painting and my flowers.
— his remark, shortly after the death of his second wife Alice in 1911

Color is my day-long obsession, joy and torment. To such an extent indeed that one day, finding myself at the deathbed of a woman who had been and still was very dear to me, I caught myself in the act of focusing on her temples and automatically analyzing the succession of appropriately graded colors which death was imposing on her motionless face.

source: Claude Monet

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