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we're the armory in Paris and we're looking at one of Monet's water lilies it's in an oval shape lit from above through a scrim which gives it a really lovely soft light there is the sense that these are contemplative works which ties them in an interesting way as to a kind of solemnity of the sort that you would expect in a religious context so no doubt this is painted late in Monet's life after the death of his wife and after the death of his son so I think there is a sense for him of his legacy he gave them to the French state and the state in turn decided to build this pavilion for them I keep thinking about Monet's lifelong desire to capture the beauty of the optical world from when he was in Paris and then an argent eye and hanging back to the boulevard the cap was seen and the light flooding down the boulevards of the gars on the Tsar and the light filtered through the steam of the trains and then later in his life in his garden with the water lilies he was interested not only in capturing and understanding rendering those effects of light and the momentary but actually in creating them you know he devoted an enormous amount of his life to actually planting these gardens and maintaining them and then translating them onto canvas and in a sense preserving that sense of the momentary the thing that I keep thinking about as we look at these and the intensity of the color and the beauty of the color harmonies is that the paintings are more beautiful than reality so let's think about them for a second in the history of landscape painting I mean these are unprecedented in that way first of all their shape as these very very long panels without a horizon right we're looking across the water so we see neither the ground that we stand on northern horizon on the far side traditional landscape painting often provided a path for one's eye to travel through a landscape and here we really can't do that because we're confronted with the surface of the water the surface of the paintings themselves but I do think that Monet is borrowing actually from the classical tradition of landscape painting if you look on both sides of these canvases you see the dark shadows of the weeping willows and those function in a sense the way that trees often framed recessionary landscapes by claude or by poss-eye so Monet has placed us in a very particular place obviously we're on the shore in some way but we're looking across the water so we see neither the ground that we stand on northern horizon on the far side now Monet had just enlarged his ponds but even then they're quite small and so he's really unmoored us by not giving us ground to stand on but he has given us a very particular angle at which we're viewing the pads of the water lilies themselves and that does place us in relationship to the surface of the water so we actually can locate ourselves and they also allow us sort of hop skip and jump from pad to pad and move back into space and then of this extraordinary volume of space below the pond and the incredible dome of space above where those towering clouds right above us and so this sense of the extent of the volume that's portrayed and yet done so on the two-dimensional surface of the pond which is of course a reflection of the two-dimensional surface of the canvas is a beautiful sort of summation of this notion that Monet has worked towards for so long how does one capture both the abstraction of Modern Art and yet also still make room for the volume that I and knows there's something really sublime here we have an infinity of that depth and there's also a sense of the infinite in the sky and the clouds and that speaks back to that religious sense while he's capturing the transitory there's a sense of permanence and transcendence at the same time that's actually a perfect way to state it let's take a really close look at the paint the surface is incredibly rich and rough and built up you can see this kind of dry brush that Monet has sort of pulled the paint across and what seems to happen is the paint comes off on the ridges that are already there making those even more prominent well this almost has a sculptural surface that helps to create some senses of volume as you look across it toward late in his career he wasn't so interested in capturing things quickly he wanted to be able to return to her a painting and continue to work it he's finding a solution to that problem and creating a studio out of doors where he can continue to work the surface and so it does have that feeling of something that has layers and layers of paint where the paint has been allowed to dry and then he's put on new layers when we stand close to this canvas and we see those layers of paint and we see the way they almost like a tapestry lie over each other so that we can see the paint between strokes and the colors are not so much blended as overlaid it's hard not to think about all over painting and Jackson Pollock the way that the painting occupies our field of vision and how did he escape that field of vision in order to paint the landscape you can almost imagine this way that the painting becomes as I think it did for Jackson Pollock that world unto itself but the artist enters and exists within we do to actually within the space of this room well that's a really critical point you know what what it begins to happen with the early modern is certainly with Matisse and Picasso and ultimately I think with people like Pollock and maybe here too is the conversation ceases to be a dialogue between the artist and its subject and becomes ultimately a dialogue between the artist and the canvas and that seems to have happened here too beautiful result