Two Questions About Monet’s “Apple Trees” Painting

This is Monet’s “Apple Trees in Blossom by the Water”, painted in 1880.

Monet Apples Trees in Blossom

Two questions:
1. What’s the focal point?
2. Where’s the water mentioned in the painting’s title?

Turn page 90 of Monet: The Seine and The Sea 1878–1883 by Michael Clarke and Richard Thomson, where it’s explained that:

“Such is the density of the surface activity that the painting has no conventional focus or compositional base. … This is a canvas about touch, texture and colour…”

Monet apple tree painting about colour

The trunk does leads your eye up into the branches, but then it takes it off the top. There’s so much going on with the leaves and shadows it’s hard to make out any single bit but simultaneously inviting you to get lost in it all. Paintings don’t have to have a traditional focal point, positioned according the Golden Mean, with a composition leading the viewer’s eye towards it. It’s your choice.

The water in the painting is supposedly implied by the sense of a tree growing on a bank. (It’s thought it’s one of the paintings Monet did from a river boat .) I’m not sure I’d think about it if it weren’t in the painting’s title. Would you?

Mostly I find myself wondering how Monet didn’t get fedup with all those shades of brown from burnt umber to beige, and whether in real life the painting has more yellows and green visible. What would your third question be?

 

No Kissing! (In Your Paintings, Anyway)

Too-neatly aligned. Just touching. Tentatively overlapped. Kissing.

It’s a venial sin of artistic composition.

Elements should either be definitely apart or definitely overlapping. No kissing please, as this creates a weak, connected shape which will distract the viewer’s eye, causing a momentary pause as they puzzle it out.

Composition Rules -- Kissing Elements in a Painting

This example is from a series of paintings I did in the early noughts called “Heat”. My solution to the sun and land kissing in the top photo was to add a hill to the land in front of the sun, as seen in the lower photo. Other options could have been to add a definite gap between the sun and land, or move the sun down behind the hill or remove the white line so sun and land merged. It’s not that any of these would have been better, though the result would have felt different.

Save your kisses for elsewhere.