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Current time:0:00Total duration:3:55

Video transcript

so according to a friend Monet sometimes only had seven minutes to work on a single canvas before the light changed too much and the effect that he was looking for was gone and it's meant that he had to return day after day to catch that exact moment of life this really speaks to Monet's hypersensitivity to specific effects of light and especially in the early 90s when he was working on his haystacks and on this poplar series Monet is representing poplar trees near his house he apparently painted these from a small rowboat well in the rowboat was fitted especially with slats in the bottom so that he could bring many canvases along with him and that's exactly how he worked in the paintings of Rouen in the paintings of the haystacks in the poplar series Monet wouldn't paint on a series of canvases as the effects of light would change as the Sun moved across the sky he wasn't depicting what he knew of the poplar the specificity of its leaf what he knew of its bark instead with the atmosphere and the sun's light contributed to the form before him so that would shift radically as the day progressed this is something that interested Monet from the very beginning of his career the optical experience at any given moment and being incredibly attuned to it working to forget what he knew instead of trees meadow river sky these became shapes and colors you have these three elegant poplars they raise up but their canopies are hidden from us above the frame and below we see the ground meet its own reflection and the poplar is reflected below that but my favorite part is the whiplash of the canopy of the trees in the background that have become so abstract it takes a moment for us to recognize what they really are well in their pink yes and their reflections or pink and trees are not pink but on this windy autumn day with bright sunlight that's how they appeared to Monet and I think it's really interesting to think about him on his boat in the river and finding views of these poplar trees that he found very beautiful and I can see why this view in particular appealed him with that lovely arabesque but you referred to soon after Monet had begun the series he found out that the man who owned this land had actually sold these trees to be cut down for wood Monet paid the man who had bought them to hold off until the fall so he could finish his series that's also really characteristic of Monet he wants to paint something out in nature things happen and he somehow stops the change because he's painting such a short moment of the light he has to be able to paint it over a considerable amount of time and make sure the scene remains that way well look at the surface this is built-up paint this is not something that he did in a flash so it is a really interesting conflict between the heavily worked surface and his promise to us that this is the momentary so there's a real problem here yeah the surface is impossible it's built up it's heavy you can see now there the paint strokes but the strokes over the strokes and this is characteristic not only of this canvas of the poplars but of the entire series in fact of Monet's series in general think about his haystacks his images of Rouen Cathedral the water lilies his a painting that represent the momentary but had been built up over time what I find lovely about these late series paintings is a sense of poignancy of a moment in time that exists only very briefly we see through his eyes I guess what I find astonishing is the intensity of the abstraction this is a painting from the 1890s and it seems to me to anticipate the work of the 20th century