Two favourite quotes from Monet, the first related to the quest to see “atmosphere” not only “landscape” and the second on the studio-painted vs plein-air debate:
“…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 … it is only the, surrounding atmosphere which gives subjects their true value.”1
“Whether my cathedral views, my views of London and other canvases are painted from life or not is nobody’s business and of no importance whatsoever.”2
Monet remains a strong favourite artist, particularly his seascapes and late lily-pond paintings, which I look at again and again. It’s that tricky dance between inspiration (“I’m going to do this too”) and defeatism (“I’m never going to manage this, may as well give up now”) and making it my own (which I’m trying to do by using more fluid paint).
When I get asked about the choice of a composition of a landscape, and my answer lies in it usually being based on one spot but with bits of other places added. Monet’s words about it not existing in its own right, that it’s a composition of my experience and memory, that it may start with an on-location sketch but ends in my studio.
1: European and American paintings and sculptures 1870-1970 in the Australian National Gallery, National Gallery of Australia, Michael Lloyd, Michael Desmond (1992), p75
2: Monet’s Years at Giverny, Metropolitan Museum of Art, p28