Water Lilies by Claude Monet: A Beauty at a Different Light

This painting uses big bold brush strokes which give an intense texture and movement to the painting. The painting is richly detailed, and this effect is achieved by the layering of colours instead of the use of many colours. This effect is achieved despite the lack of thin strokes and hard edges in the painting. In this painting, light is clearly a subject, the air and light in this painting are as visible as the more opaque things. This gives the effect that we are viewing this scene through a dense but richly coloured haze.

A huge percentage of this painting is water, he makes the water intensely layered, yet the translucency of the water is depicted beautifully by the fact that every layer is visible. This image is really simple, yet it seems carefully selected and perfectly balanced, too perfect to be an accident of nature. The paint in the image is applied in very visible strokes and in varying degrees of thickness, this heightens the sense of physicality and movement of the scene depicted but at the same time makes it very apparent that we are looking at a painting.

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Contrary to popular belief that to be realistic, a painting has to be almost like a picture off a camera, this painting is almost 3D in effect and engages all your senses, you feel almost as if you could even smell the scene. Yet it is very evident to you that you are looking at pigment. You don’t just look at this painting, you are in the experience of viewing it. This painting struck me as a bit odd the first time I saw it, but then I realised that it’s because of the fact that this painting evokes movement in very unexpected places; the placid surface of water, the air, the grass and even in the stationary lily pads.

In doing so this painting suggests that life is inherent in all things. In this world cluttered with objects, media noise and images that encourage only the most superficial visual impressions, this painting inspires a renewed vision of the world, instead of being yet another image that I appreciate but whose effects never change me, this painting gives a sense of completeness, complexity and life in all things. Your feel your perceptions of the painting shift between possibilities, from objects in the pictures, to the relations between them, and to their relation with air and water.

The emphasis on light and air, by making them so visible, and water, by the use of movement that draws your eyes to it, perhaps show some deeper things that many ignore; the fact that the sun is the engine that drives our world, the water is what living things are mostly made of, and air is needed for our sustenance. After a while of looking at this painting and understanding my reaction to it, what seemed unusual was not the emphasis on light, air, water and movement in this painting, but the fact that people could perceive this view of the world as unusual.