Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Schjeldahl on Monet: A literary colorama

I read Peter Schjeldahl for his deep knowledge of art & because he dismisses theory out of hand unless it can back itself up. He's there for the art, not the cleverness of critics. It's a minor paradox, perhaps, that someone so besotted with visual glories finds words a sufficient medium to lavish his love. But what words! If he were a painter, I'd say he combines technique, experience & firm intentions with a faith that, through improvisation, inspiration must be sought.

Here's Schjeldahl on Claude Monet's gigantic triptych of water lilies, recently reinstalled in its own room at MOMA.

"Water Lilies," Claude Monet

"Get as close as you like to the nubbly surfaces of the triptych, with its candid brushstrokes that skitter and clot; your gaze will stay drenched in an aqueous sublime. Pinkish summer clouds aren’t so much reflected as drowned in turquoise, violet, and mud-green depths. Monet knew palpably, at each point, what all his colors were up to. Everything answers, resoundingly, to everything else. The tone of the next biggest, single-panel panorama is a soprano, silvery shimmer, suggesting water less than polychrome steam. Smaller canvases include 'The Japanese Footbridge'—with its startling reds—and a moist fury of flowering agapanthus. Last one in’s a rotten egg."

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