Claude Monet: the eyes of a visionary

Frame of Mind is a weekly column written by the University of Dallas Art Association (UDAA). It will feature articles like the one below and will provide the student body with an opportunity to read about certain artists, styles, movements and exhibitions. All articles will be written by different members of the Association.

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At the Dallas Museum of Art, an onlooker admires "Seine at Lavacourt" by Claude Monet, painted in 1880 with oil on canvas.

There are several artists who have posthumously secured a place for themselves as part of mainstream art. Some of these artists went from being rejected by their contemporaries to being disproportionately praised by popular acclaim. This popularity has resulted in a society over exposed to these artists’ works, turning them into material for dollar store poster art. The poster for the cabaret “Le Chat Noir” with its iconic black cat and Art Nouveau imagery comes to mind; it is ubiquitous among the gift shops of tourist-laden Paris. However, the contributions of these artists to the art world are often misunderstood. Among these are Pierre Auguste Renoir, Mary Cassatt, Claude Monet and others who were led by Edouard Manet in the mid-18th century Parisian suburbia. This group of friends formed a clique of revolutionary artists known as the Impressionists.

Paintings of lunch parties, sunsets by the sea or ballerinas characterize the Impressionists’ work. The Impressionists painted in soft colors and with haphazard brushstrokes that convey a fresh sense of spontaneity, transience and romanticism of the present moment. Claude Monet’s body of work clearly embodied the direction of this new style, but one of the driving forces behind it is largely ignored.

Monet’s private correspondences with friends reveal that the painter suffered from cataracts by the time he was in his sixties. Even though he had two surgeries to correct his condition, he struggled with color-blindness as he grew older and was almost completely blind by the end of his life. This debilitating condition led to aesthetic changes in Monet’s artwork that were largely unintentional.

Monet’s early paintings demonstrate a familiarity with the way that light touches the world and a great sensitivity to color. His works display a seamless combination of these two qualities resulting in crisp and delicate masterpieces. In them, Monet attends to details, yet he retains the sense of a fleeting moment.

Unlike his earlier works, Monet’s later paintings show an increasing tendency towards abstraction due to his difficulty seeing. The objects within his later paintings are less detailed; their edges blur with each other, colors change, and the source of light is less clear. These were results of his degenerative eye disease rather than deliberate stylistic decisions, which uniquely transformed his paintings.

The Impressionists wanted to depict the transient nature of life, and Monet’s beautifully blurred, later paintings unintentionally became the embodiment of Impressionist artwork to modern society.

UDAA is a school sponsored and student-run organization that was re-established in the spring of 2015. Once a strong organization among the art graduate students, it is now under new leadership and has shifted its purpose. It currently engages with the student body at large, regardless of major or class standing.

The organization’s purpose is to promote and encourage greater awareness of past and present visual culture. It seeks to stimulate conversation among the students about the world of fine art. It strives to share more opportunities to personally experience the creativity and genius of our own art department — and the richness that the Dallas-Fort Worth art community has to offer.

 In the past, UDAA has successfully carried out several initiatives. Among these initiatives were public art installations, juried exhibitions, on-campus treasure hunts, movie screenings with discussions and many more. Some of these initiatives will take place again this school year, while many new ones will be carried out.

 UDAA wishes to extend a warm welcome to all new and returning students. For more information about the UD Art Association, please email udartassociation@udallas.edu.

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