Monet’s Coquelicots has just replaced Hokusai’s The Great Wave off Kanagawa as my favorite artwork of all time.
Until recently, my attitude toward Monet has been nothing more than “meh.” Despite impressionism’s modern popularity, I was never really drawn to it. Granted, my first impression (no pun intended) of Monet was Impression, Sunrise. It’s an ugly painting, and I still think so regardless of my newfound appreciation of Monet. Impressionism, in general, is too fluffy for my taste. My eyes needs something concrete–not a billion tiny strokes subject to an overabundance of light. Sure, Monet is a master of light’s evanescence but what really appeals to me is Baroque chiaroscuro–essentially a delightful abuse of darkness. Darkness gives definition.
But The Great Wave wasn’t formerly 1st place because of it’s use of shadow, no. There are really two reasons why my formerly favorite painting is still a poster in my bedroom.
First, it’s Japanese. I could pretend that I don’t have a bias toward Japanese art but alas, it’s a considerable factor. I could ramble for hours on end as to why I’m hopelessly in love with Japanese culture and art, but that’s another story in its own right. You can see Mt. Fuji in the background, almost disguising itself as a wave. The fact that it’s a print and not a painting makes it reminiscent of a cartoonish, anime-style scene.
Secondly, it never gets boring. Although The Great Wave is usually the first thing I see every morning, Hosukai managed to create a work that grabs my attention perpetually with a severely limited color palette. I attribute this to great motion. The wave itself is full of life. The violent ocean spray and the furiously undulating sea are anything but static. The wave crests are topped with claws, captured in mid-pounce. The prey is helpless as an immortal Fuji chuckles in the distance. My eyes could follow this work forever.
Thirdly, the color. Blue goes nicely with the walls of my room but also happens to be my favorite color. In addition, the color is clean and distinct. There’s no unnecessary blending and each shade, each color, and each line has the opportunity to shine without being outclassed by others. The entire aura is very tangible and there’s no room for confusion.
Coquelicots, on the other hand, has also deserved a spot on my bedroom wall. It’s a painting that has changed my impression of impressionism for good. The reasons for this are very, almost childishly, simple.
First, Coquelicots is much more vibrant than Hokusai’s ship-sinker. The color palette is much more varied and the colors themselves are much more lively and welcoming. Secondly, the work itself is more…happy. Sure, there’s a part of me that covets sad-themed paintings, but if you could bottle the feeling that Monet has managed to capture, you’d make millions. I can’t really pinpoint what it is; the scene seems really trivial, with a few classy women walking in a quaint little field. What really gets me is not the figures, but the vastness of the scenery around them. The field ends at the horizon, but stretches infinitely horizontally. The sky is vast and unclaimed. It’s blue is one that speaks liberty. And it’s true: there’s something really liberating about Coquelicots.
Who knows, maybe by the time school resumes next week, I’ll be in more of a Great Wave mood.