Country Kitchen Themes and Colors

April 7th, 2012 No Comments   Posted in Claude Monet

Claude Monet

Designing a charming and romantic Country Kitchen with a warm, inviting atmosphere entails more than just “setting the table” with some quality decorative accessories. Whether you have a tiny kitchen or a spacious one big enough for a big maple table, you can give the space a country flavor with the right color and themed accents.

Color is a key ingredient because it makes the first impression of a room on our senses, so setting the mood is your primary concern. If you can paint the walls, you may choose a very light yellow to give a sunny glow to the kitchen. A primitive design wallpaper or stencil border will further the country look. Combining yellow and a French blue, which is a blue-purple hue, is a traditional use of Country French colors. Add accessories such blue glass and amber glass, blue canister sets, potholders, oven mitts, dishtowels and blue and white check table linens and curtains. Use accents like blue tiles and framed sunflower prints or tin signs.

If your walls have to stay white and your appliances are also white, as in most apartments, you will have to rely on well-chosen splashes of color in your design accents to do the trick. You can start by finding a line of accessories featuring one bold color like red or bright blue or a theme such as roosters, berries, sunflowers or country store. Then add accents that complement the color or the theme.

Let’s say, for example, that you choose a line of accessories featuring red, like apples, cherries or strawberries. A set of bold red canisters and a red cookie jar will add panache to the countertop. Your kitchen table can sport a red check or red and white stripe tablecloth and red napkins. You could use a centerpiece of fresh flowers in a red glass bowl. For a party, complete the picture with red candlesticks in white ceramic candleholders. Also consider decorative red glass bottles for a windowsill and red chair cushions. Framed prints of red fruits and vegetables dress up neutral walls.

If you choose blue for your basic color scheme, this color, particularly when combined with accents of yellow, typifies old-world charm. European kitchens feature rich, strong blues in tiles, curtains and glass dishes. At Claude Monet‘s country estate in Giverny (about an hour north of Paris) the huge, black stove is backed by multi-patterned blue and white tiles, a striking as well as practical design statement. (See “Monet‘s Table by Claire Joyes.) In the adjacent dining room, a dining table has 12-14 yellow-painted chairs and is laid with blue and white dishes on a yellow tablecloth, set off by blue flowers in tiny vases by the place settings. Another set of Monet‘s everyday dishes was bright yellow edged in deep blue. Stunning!

You can use green as an accent in the form of lush, leafy potted plants. Plants serve several functions: they make your kitchen beautiful by bringing nature indoors, they give off oxygen and they’ll fit right in with your color scheme. If red is your main accent or theme, the green in plants will intensify this color because green is opposite red on the color wheel. They are “complementary” colors. Green is also the combination of two primary colors, yellow and blue, so it harmonizes with that color scheme also.

Match and complement your country kitchen’s featured colors when you choose your cooking/serving apron as well as potholders and oven mitts. You are the star of the room and you should dress the part!

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French Art – Famous French Artists & Paintings

March 25th, 2012 No Comments   Posted in Claude Monet

Claude Monet

French art has played a crucial role in many art movements, both past and present. It is perhaps best known for its influence in impressionism and the importance of the French capital, Paris, to the art world. Paris’ Louvre Museum has retained its status as one of the premier spots for art appreciation in the world and even houses The Mona Lisa, one of the world’s most famous paintings.

The key periods of French art include Prehistoric, Medieval, Renaissance & Mannerism, Baroque & Classicism, Rococo & Neoclassicism, 19th & 20th Century Contemporary movements.

The Merovingian dynasty of the Franks was significant in France and Germany., from the fifth century to the eighth century. The Merovingian period of the fifth century began a change in French art which was to continue up to the present day, with new movements being created all the time.

Merovingian’s catalyst for art development was continued on with Carolingian art over a 120-year period from 750 to 900. After Carolingian rule closed around 900, there was little more development or production of significant French art movements for some 60 years. France became a divided country at this point and there were not the right conditions for artistic creativity. The 10th and 11th centuries were dominated by local monastries who took a significant role in France’s art production at that stage.

Prior to the respected Gothic period that was the Romanesque art of Western Europe for around two hundred and fifty years, from 1000 A.D. to the middle of the 12th century in France. The name refers to the influence of, and return to, Roman styles and principles in architecture and art which this movement used.

Gothic art and architecture then took over French are for around 300 years. Whilst originating here, it actually spread quickly to other parts of Europe. The later International Gothic style had less of a reliance and prominence of religion than its former, and it then went onto the further develop from there into Renaissance art. Gothic art included sculpture, panel painting, stained glass, fresco, and illuminated manuscript most prominently.

The French invasion of Italy in the late 15th century allowed the influence of the Renaissance to fully take hold of France’s art direction and leave a mark which remains strong even today.

The French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars brought in new influences which helped to push Renaissance art into new directions and bridge the gap between Renaissance art and the later styles of Romanticism and later Impressionism.

Romanticism brought French landscape painting to the forefront and later led to Gustave Courbet and the Barbizon school as key markers in the further changes to the status quo. The late 19th century brought French Symbolism from Gustave Moreau, the professor of Matisse and Rouault, as well as Odilon Redon.

Impressionism brought an array of French art to the forefront, led by Claude Monet and his use of landscapes and carefully prepared gardens to develop artistic coverage of light changes and vivid paintings. It started the progress towards the many new styles that we have today.

For contemporary art, Impressionism, Cubism, Dada, Expressionism & Surrealism have roots in French art. The early years of the twentieth century were dominated by experiments in colour and content which Impressionism and Post-Impressionism had unleashed. This led to the likes of cubism and fauvism, which themselves have inspired some of the new art movements that appear even today.

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Manet’s Olympia

March 21st, 2012 No Comments   Posted in Claude Monet

Claude Monet

Olympia by Edouard Manet is regarded as one of the finest impressionist paintings. Manet painted Olympia back in 1863 at the same time that he produced another notable work Le déjeuner sur l’herbe, The Luncheon on the Grass. This article discusses Olympia and the rest of the career of French impressionist Edouard Manet.

Olympia’s success is due to the role of the woman portrayed in the painting who was not of the typical standing of someone considered suitable for a portrait and her role within society was underlined by Manet’s careful selection of objects which were placed on and around the subject. Manet sought in Olympia an honesty and accuracy to social life that other artists and academics were not prepared for at that time. Manet consistently offered raw life with women serving the roles that society has granted them rather than trying to make reality look better than it was for the sake of the viewer who perhaps was only willing to see a painting that offered a classic portrait. Artists like Manet are essential for moving traditional thinking onwards and challenging existing ideas in the hope that their own work and that of similar but younger artists would flourish in later years once their own careers had laid down a great legacy.

Edouard Manet was an artist respected by many close friends in the art world including Claude Monet and Berthe Morisot but his finest works such as Olympia and Le déjeuner sur l’herbe struggled for academic acceptance at that time because of the traditional attitudes of many members of artistic institutions who were not open to the idea of progression and innovation which Manet unquestionably offered.

From a long career of exceptional achievement which is now fully understood and respected, Manet’s best paintings included Olympia, The Luncheon on the Grass, The Fifer, Bar at the Folies-Bergère, The Railway and The Grand Canal in Venice.

We can conclude that Olympia was a crucial painting within the career of Edouard Manet who himself left a great legacy as a member of the French impressionist movement which remains one of the most important group of artists over the past few centuries within European art. Manet’s role within impressionist was crucial, as was his self-confidence and desire to challenge the artistic norms of that period. Without this sort of bravery the impressionists would not have achieved such great success and changes with what academics of that time considered good art.

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On the Bank of the Seine, Bennecourt by Claude Monet

March 9th, 2012 No Comments   Posted in Claude Monet

Claude Monet

On the Bank of the Seine, Bennecourt is one of Claude Monet‘s most famous paintings. This work of art that hangs in the galleries of the Art Institute of Chicago offers us a turning point in French Impressionism.

This piece is the turning-point for Claude Monet and for French impressionism because for the first time the artist was freeing himself from the confines of Academy standard (classical composition and form) to what has come to be known as plain air painting. The shift here is to move away from traditional forms of art that viewers are looking for and expecting. Monet here is now taking the viewers to a new plane in order to free them of the shackles of contours lines, perspective, and localized colors.

The scene here is of a lady sitting on the lawn above the banks of the River Seine. Her hat is next to her on the grass and both are covered in shade. To her left are two large trees that provide the shade that covers her and the lawn. The lady is looking away with her back turned towards us looking over the river. On the river there is a couple in a small boat rowing down the river. Across the banks of the river are a series of houses and farmland up behind the houses. The scene is rural not urban and offers fresh sunlight and air to both the subjects in the painting and the view. In the water you can see the reflection of the houses and landscape from across the river. You will note that you can very clearly see the reflection of the house in the water that is covered by the trees. Everything about this painting is fresh and relaxed.

The most important thing to grasp here is the change of form and composition. The forms are not delineated or put in a scheme of other events. The two trees to the right are crucial in that they offer support to the subject while at the same time they are tall, dark, and dominant. The boat that is on the banks anchors our eye to the lower portion of the painting so that we can keep attention to the subject. The hat offers a visual escape for there is now water next to the lady but the hat acts like a small craft positioned at here side.

Your feedback is welcome.

Stephen F. Condren – Artist

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Mucha Artwork

December 22nd, 2011 No Comments   Posted in Claude Monet

Claude Monet

Mucha artwork is a topic regularly searched for through Google Image Search with thousands of art fans around the world passionately discovering more and more on the work of famous Czech artist Alphonse Mucha, with this article covering Mucha artwork in great detail. Those normally searching specifically for this topic often have less knowledge of precise details of the career of Mucha but are perhaps already sold on the qualities of his illustrative skills and the stylish portraits that would always dominate his prints right throughout his career. It is easy to develop a view on Mucha’s career as a whole because of the consistency in style that he adopted throughout after finding his preferred method at a relatively young age and sticking with it for the majority of his output.

Those looking for Mucha artwork as a study topic will quickly realise that illustrative art prints was his method of production and most followed the same proportions and layout. His topics covered seasons and times of the day for example, as he sought to produce series of works that together covered something completely. This is similar to Claude Monet who himself created the respected series of Haystacks paintings which displayed the changes in light and colour over times of the day and in different seasons.

In conclusion, those interested in Mucha artwork will be drawn to his original illustrations and portraits which are his characteristic style that remains consistent throughout. The feminine look to his charming prints was relatively unusual at the time and this helped him to build a large fanbase who immediately took to his style and always looked forward to his future works, confident they would follow a similar artistic direction.

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From Classicism to Impressionism – The Life and Works of Pierre-Auguste Renoir

October 20th, 2011 No Comments   Posted in Claude Monet

Claude Monet

Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) was a very versatile artist. The subjects of his paintings range from the vibrancy of crowds in the center of Paris to the tranquility of a summer’s day in the French countryside. He was also a prolific portrait artist and still life painter. Although Renoir belonged to the impressionist school of painters, he trained initially as a classical artist and many of his earlier works are classical in style.

An example of a classical work by Renoir is the “Portrait of William Sisley,” painted in 1864. William Sisley, the father of the painter, Alfred Sisley, is depicted very much in the classical style with a high level of realism. However, the way in which Renoir introduced light into this painting was to be further developed later on in his career in his impressionistic works.

The son of a tailor, Renoir was born in 1841 in Limoges, France. Four years later, he moved to Paris with his family. His artistic career began when he worked as a decorator of porcelain at Levy Freres. His talents soon earned him a pay rise.

In 1862, Renoir started to study classical painting at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Around this time, Renoir worked for various clients, painting ceilings with ornate decorations, and it is also believed that he decorated several Parisian cafes but no evidence of this remains.

In January 1868, he began to share a studio with Frederic Bazille. He was a frequent visitor to the Cafe Guerbois, where he met other painters such as Edouard Manet, and Edgar Degas. In 1869, Renoir and Claude Monet painted what are regarded as the first impressionist paintings, showing the effects of light on the water of the river Seine.

A pause in Renoir’s career was brought about by the Franco-Prussian War between 1870 and 1871 when he served in the military.

In 1874, Renoir and Monet organized the impressionists’ first exhibition. Seven of Renoir’s paintings, including the theater scene, “The Box,” and “Dancer,” were on display. The exhibition was not a success and harsh criticism of their work ensued.

Nevertheless, Renoir continued to paint in the impressionist style with themes from nature resulting in such paintings as the “Path Leading Through Long Grass,” which is now exhibited at the Musee d’Orsay in Paris.

In March 1875, the impressionists held an auction of their work. Several paintings sold, including two of Renoir’s works, albeit at low prices and with scathing remarks from spectators.

Several of Renoir’s paintings, including “Moulin de la Galette” and “The Swing,” featured in another exhibition of impressionist art, held in 1877. Unfortunately, this exhibition was also not widely acclaimed with just a few buyers of the impressionists’ paintings.

After the failure of this exhibition, Renoir re-focused on painting in the classical style and his painting, “Mme Charpentier and her Children,” was accepted by the prestigious Salon in 1879. Now displayed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, it depicts a cozy scene of family life in the Charpentier family’s Japanese room.

Renoir’s fortunes began to change in 1881, when the dealer, Durand-Ruel, began to buy his paintings, paying in monthly installments. Renoir went on trips to Italy and Algeria, where he was greatly inspired. During this time abroad, he painted such works as “The Bay of Naples” and “Algerian Girl,” which is now exhibited at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. After his return to Paris, twenty-five of Renoir’s paintings were displayed in an exhibition organized by Durand-Ruel.

During the remainder of the 1880s, Renoir’s paintings remained in the classical style. Some critics remarked that his style was reminiscent of the French painter, Ingres. However, in 1890, Renoir returned to the “gentle and light” style of impressionist painting and he was to remain painting in this way for the rest of his life. Although he suffered from arthritis at this time, he continued to paint with speed and enthusiasm.

In 1904, Renoir’s retrospective exhibition at the Salon d’Automne was highly successful. Despite attacks of paralysis and fingers crippled with arthritis, he continued to draw and paint, even after he was confined to a wheelchair in 1912. He said: “If I have to choose between walking and painting, I’d rather paint.”

Renoir died in 1919, a few months after the prestigious Louvre museum in Paris had accepted for display his “Portrait of Mme Charpentier.”

Renoir’s carefree spirit is captured in many of his paintings which reveal “joie de vivre” and contentment with life. The “Moulin de la Galette,” for example, is a lively crowd scene painted from real life in a dance hall in the Montmartre area of Paris. It shows people drinking, dancing and generally having a good time.

Renoir’s works are now on display in various art galleries and private collections worldwide, including the USA, United Kingdom, France, Russia, Brazil and Japan. The collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York includes several of Renoir’s impressionistic works, such as a painting of his last home, “The Farm at Les Collettes, Cagnes.” At the Art Institute of Chicago, works by Renoir include the colorful painting of “Two Sisters on the Terrace.”

In London, “The Box,” which was part of the impressionists’ first failed exhibition, can now be viewed at the Courtauld Institute of Art, while the famous Parisian crowd scene, “The Umbrellas” is on display at the National Gallery.

The Musee d’Orsay in Paris has a large collection of paintings by Renoir, including “Moulin de la Galette” and “The Swing.”

The final word should go to Renoir himself, who summarized his philosophy of life in this way: “I’ve never sought to direct my life. I have always let myself be carried along by events.”

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Mermaids, Fantasies and Art

September 16th, 2011 No Comments   Posted in Claude Monet

Claude Monet

About ten years ago I decided that when people asked me what I did or who I was, I would confidently reply, “I am an artist”. No matter how I was making a living or if my status was that of a ‘starving artist’ or not, I would announce, “I am an artist”. I would proclaim what I had fantasized myself to be since I was a little girl.

I started to draw at three and four years old, in the back seat of my parents car as they drove from state to state, looking for rainbows I suspect. I was a little girl drawing mermaids, angel art ,fairy art, fantasy art in general. I tried as best I could to make that world alive. I made my own coloring pages. As I grew older I had free paper dolls available to me anytime I decided to make drawings or little paintings of them. Drawings of mermaids and fairies that I imagined to be just like Renaissance paintings. My talent was as good as I decided it could be. My free paper dolls were not paper toys at all, my paper mermaid once given a chance became a real mermaid. Fantasy art would one day be wall murals of a world I would create from my imagination . I did not know of Pablo Picasso; Kandinsky; Marc Chagall; or the softness of Mary Cassatt. I had never gone to an art gallery to see Salvador Dali paintings; Leonardo da Vinci paintings; or Claude Monet paintings. Such a world to discover ahead of me, full of fine art; paintings and sculptures. As a child I had my own fantasy gallery though and everything I saw became magical.

So what happens as we grow older and those feelings of pretend and fantasy become dull? We find ourselves wondering what took away that spirit of optimism and adventure. When did paper toys appear only as paper, no longer something that fairies, mermaids and dragons became alive in? Does it matter? Is it OK that that part of us that became Tinker Bell or a dragon is no longer there? Or maybe is it OK to try to find them again?

People tell me all the time that they cannot even draw a straight line.

Do you ‘want’ to learn how to draw though? Do you wish you could? Did you draw when you were little? Often the answer is yes.

When you were going to school did anyone ever hand you a piece of paper and say, show me what you can do with algebra without any knowledge of it or any help? Did anyone ever tell you to write a story without first teaching you how to print individual letters? We do that kind of thing with art though don’t we? We think that if a child sits down and draws and does a half way decent job that they are talented. Maybe they are, but maybe the kid sitting next to him could be too, even though he/she has no confidence to draw that straight line because no one taught him how to draw. I think that talent is ‘desire’ and the rest is practice. If you ‘want’ to be able to draw a straight line or mermaids or dragons then you ‘are’ talented. You are an artist waiting to happen! Somewhere along the line someone dampened your spirit so you stopped trying and stopped dreaming. It may not be in fine art, it may be in writing. You may be itching to say, “I am a writer!” even though you might be making your living as a lawyer or a dishwasher. It is art in our souls and I think we need it.

I am an artist! I paint and draw and sculpt. I try to remember all the visions of my childhood and continue on with those dreams. I paint some fantasy art, mermaids, mermaid babies, African women and African art, do some contemporary art, I even draw some naked art and pin up art. I have come a long way. I do sculptures, sell my oil paintings here and there and even have giclee prints. I try to paint or draw every day. Most of all I try to retain my childhood fantasies of ‘being an artist’. I try to decide what that means to me. Part of it is my thirst to create but part of it is because without magic, without paper toys becoming real to me, I am only an adult, going through the motions of everyday life not noticing a little fairy dust.

“Paper Toys”

Be careful what you step on

It might just be my heart

Some wounds have no recovery

no place from which to start.

The box, packed with tiny ribbons

you made sure they did not get lost.

You flatter me…

to think that much of me

to handle them with such care.

I thank you for the cobwebs

and the way that they were groomed.

I know I should be grateful

that someone heard the loon.

I was greeted by a pattern

set in place so many days ago

I tried to reconstruct my thoughts

and make them not my home.

I stand erect and look from side to side

It seems I’ve made a prisoner of my thoughts

sad day of untidy means and sighs.

I thank you for the cobwebs though.

Through all the rubble

that may have gone unnoticed

and yet…

It’s not as if you could not possibly understand

what to me

was so obviously bemoaned.

I was a little girl

paper dolls in hand

Making paper do

what others

could not possibly understand.

I suppose I should close the box

vacant, without the ribbons

that seemed to have been tossed.

Scold my attitude

and measures of the loss.

I know I should be grateful

for the memories held fast

but oh…

all the beautiful colors

when clipped

could never last.

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France Travel – Best Places To Visit In France

September 13th, 2011 No Comments   Posted in Claude Monet

Claude Monet

France is one of the most favourite, most visited and most admired countries and for sure among the must-to see places for travelers. It owns various attractions which would satisfy all kind of travelers. As a travel destination, there are good beaches, monuments, châteauxes, cathedrals, historical places, inspiring churches, mountain scenery, nature, museums, plenty of shopping places, cafés, restaurants and bars. The one who likes to explore history, culture and art all together whiling traveling must see France. It provides some of the best tourist attractions in the world.

As the capital of France, Paris, also called the city of lights, is one of the most romantic cities in bothe world. The main offices of important organizations such as UNESCO, the ICC, NATO, the OECD are located here. The fashion of Paris is the unique one. This romantic city has tourist attractions such as the Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame Cathedral, Arc de Triomphe, Sacré-Coeur, Centre Pompidou, Musee d’Orsay and the Louvre Museum. Although there are many museums and monuments in the City of Light, these must be especially visited.

There are so many museums to visit in Strasbourg, too such as La Vaisseau (especially for families), Musee Alsacien, Musee des Beaux-Arts, Musee de l’Oeuvre Notre-Dame, History Museum etc. Cathedrale Notre Dame de Strasurg, Petite France, Ponts Couverts and Quartier Allemand are among tourist attractions of the city.

Bordeaux, a city of endless cafes and bars, several historic attractions, lively nights and wide avenues, is also among the best places to see in France. The city is also known as France’s capital of wine. There are the most well known wine producing regions around Bordeaux. Apart from its sightseeings, the city is for the ones who are looking for excellent food and drink.

Lyon is the gastronomic capital of France. Basilique de Notre Dame de Fourvière, Cathédrale St-Jean, Place de la Comédie, Roman Ruins, Museum of Gallo-Roman Civilization are among major tourist attractions in Lyon.’A French island basking in the Italian sun’ is the description of Balzac for Corsica. It is an island and region of France. Corsica has excellent beaches that offers activites for travellers. Snorkeling and scuba diving are available.

Avignon, Marseille, Nice, Antibes, Montpellier, Alsace, North Calais, Lorraine, Picardy, Brittany, Normandy, Provence-Alps and Cote d’Azur; Rhone Alpes, Aquitaine and Dordogne, Languedoc Roussillon, Midi Pyrenees are among popular places to see.

Château de Versailles, Fontainebleau, Giverny, Musée Claude Monet, Pont d’Avignon, Chenonceau Castle, Mount Saint Michael, Arc de Triomphe, Maison Victor Hugo, Champs Elysiées, Disneyland Paris are also tourist attractions to be visited.

Richness of France heritage results in a list of so many sightseeings, attractions and places to see. It’s better to make a plan and be aware of the time that you will spend there. Also, watching the videos of Travelovideo will help to get an idea about France before visiting.

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Different Kinds of Art

January 25th, 2011 No Comments   Posted in Claude Monet

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There are many different kinds of art. Some of the different kinds of art include original art, modern paintings, and art from the Impressionist era. Art that is original, by definition, is work that is one-of-a-kind and it can be any kind of art, not just a painting as long as it was created by the real artist himself or herself. Modern art is, by definition, art “of the present times.” Finally, impressionist artwork is work in which the artist paints the picture as if he or she has just something very quickly. Art is one of the best ways to lose yourself in your thoughts, either when creating it or when viewing it.

Original art is the one-of-a-kind painting or work done by an artist. Original art is anything that is done by the artists themselves. Replicas of famous paintings like the Mona Lisa have been created, but it is easy for art connoisseurs to know what the real piece looks like. The best form of art is in its original form. Usually the original pieces of famous paintings can be found in museums all around the world. For example, the “Mona Lisa” is located at the Louvre in Paris, along with other Da Vinci works.

The contemporary art era is defined as any kind of modern art created from the 1900s to the present. This type of work gave artists the freedom to call almost anything art. It also created an escape from political and social turmoil throughout the ages. Some of the different categories of modern art include expressionism, cubism, and surrealism. Contemporary artists include artists such as Andy Warhol, Georgia O’Keefe, and Pablo Picasso, to name a few. Contemporary art seems to be a form that people either really love or really dislike. Probably the most interesting thing about contemporary art is that it can be anything. Before contemporary art, there were strict rules about what could and could not be art. After the modern art came along there were no boundaries anymore.

Surprisingly enough, impressionism is a form of contemporary art. Impressionist art is supposed to be an image of something as if the person had just seen it briefly. It began in France, during the nineteenth century. Impressionist art features bright colors and scenes from outside. Impressionist art also focuses on real-life images and does not focus on the details of painting. Impressionist era painters include famous artists like Paul Cezanne, Claude Monet, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

These kinds of art are only three of numerous different types of artwork. Original and contemporary art have only recently become popular, where impressionist art has been consistently popular ever since it’s beginning in France. Anytime you are able to see great art by visiting a museum, you should take advantage of the opportunity. Viewing different kinds of art allows you to see what type of person you are. Creating art and viewing art are also great ways to lose yourself in your thoughts.

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Retirement or Re-routing?

January 10th, 2011 No Comments   Posted in Claude Monet

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When I was in my twenties, the idea of retirement seemed a death sentence. Anxious to establish a place for myself in the professional world, I found the prospect of unstructured time terrifying and wasteful.

Now, in my fifties, I find the prospect of retirement seductive, even compelling–not something to be pushed to the end of one’s life like an afterthought, but something that must be planned for, actively pursued while there is yet time.

However, when I made the announcement that I would be taking an early retirement from my teaching profession, I was not prepared for some of the comments I received. “What will you do with your time?” “Are you happy?” another colleague asked me six months into my retirement. “Are you truly happy?”

The question misses the point– retirement is not so much an issue of happiness (in the way freedom 55 ads would like us to believe) as it is an issue of integrity. The decision to leave the professional world is just as serious as the decision to work till one’s dying breath. The question “Are you happy?” I fear, comes from the bias of our highly production-conscious society. Work is considered legitimate only if it produces something tangible. And a good life is one that is obviously productive, defined by traditionally external measures of success such as schedules, visibility, profit and status. How can one who opts out of the professional life be happy?

Perhaps an answer can be gleaned from Impressionist Artist Claude Monet whose life shifted in a somewhat new direction when he turned 50. At 21, Monet was conscripted into the army. His father bought him out of military service on the condition that he received formal art training in Paris. Every fiber in Monet resisted classical training; what he wanted most was to paint outdoors. Rejected by the Salon in his early career, he persisted in painting the way he saw, insisting that his eyes were all he needed. Refusing to allow theory to eclipse his sight, he traveled extensively, to the outlying shores of France, London, Holland, the Mediterranean Coast to capture the dramatic and exotic in landscapes.

It wasn’t until 1890, when his art generated tremendous enthusiasm in New York that he became financially secure. 1890 was a watershed year. Monet turned 50 and the property at Giverny which he had leased a few years before, became legally his own; he was able to purchase it outright for 22,000 francs. Instead of continuing in the same vein as he had through most of his life,– traveling, painting exotic landscapes that were highly lucrative on the market– Monet retired to his country cottage at Giverny and started a flower garden.

What were the reasons for this dramatic change? Financial security was part of the answer. The other part, I think, had a great deal to do with Monet‘s sense of integrity about what he wanted to do with his life. Released from bread and butter issues, he could finally pursue a path that he could call his own. “My garden is slow work, pursued with love and I do not deny that. What I need most of all are flowers, always, always.” And flowers he grew–a whole feast of them–tulips.lilacs, marigolds, dahlias, nasturtiums, all arranged with an eye for color and light.

It was a self-contained world–the paintings mirroring the garden, the garden mirroring what he perceived to be the incredible mystery of light and atmosphere. Yet by no means was it a trivial world; in pursuing what he loved, Monet had entered what most of us yearn for but deny ourselves because of lack of time–the deepening of spiritual experience. He had begun to answer the need that surfaces when our bodies begin their dissolution (usually around 50)–the need to deepen ourselves, move down into the earthy layers of our psyche and take root.

This rooting is most evident in Monet‘s later series of paintings on grainstacks and water-lilies, paintings that he replicated laboriously at different times of the day in order to pursue the subtle nuances of change that accompany perception in time. These subjects were, from the perspectives of market in the late 1800′s, very limited and compromising because of their ordinariness. But passionate about this work, Monet delayed several times to honor requests for more profitable and exotic pieces he had contracted to various art dealers and journals. What was his excuse? Working on the grainstacks. Money was no longer important now, but the integrity of his passion was.

A friend once told me that retirement should be more appropriately called “re-routing,” that is, taking a different route, a more personal route, a route less traveled but no less rewarding. It is a re-routing to the unlived life that has been pushed to the periphery by the demands of livelihood, parenthood, ambition: the kids need to be fed and you have to prove yourself to the world. Paying attention to our dreams and yearnings takes time. Listening to the voice of inner guidance, working to connect with spirit–all these take time. To a world consumed by schedules and productivity, re-routing might seem like wasting time. But it is only within the luxury of time that roots can grow.

Copyright 2005 Mary Desaulniers

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