Late Monet: playing with light

There’s a temporary Monet exhibit at the Deyoung museum through Memorial Day weekend. It focuses on his later years, which I associate with the Water Lilies paintings that are kept in the l’Orangerie museum in Paris. They are not my favorite, honestly. They are impressive in size, but are otherwise just shades of pastel colors that I don’t find especially interesting.

What I’m saying: I went to the Late Monet exhibit because I wanted to see the art, but I wasn’t going to get my hopes up too much.

But I ended up enjoying it more than I thought I would. Why? Well….

I don’t think of Monet and Van Gogh as being painters who were particularly similar. But this painting above (and there were others in the exhibit)? May have changed my mind about that. The brushstrokes are similar, and the colors are brighter and more vivid than I remembered. There is a life to these paintings that I wasn’t expecting.

Monet, as always, kept up his habit of painting the same thing over and over again in different seasons and different lights. I always like seeing these paintings next to each other. You know that the one on the right was painted in the fall, whereas the one on the left might have been an early grey spring day.

And this painting of roses? I just liked this one. I like its unfinished edges, how light it is, and how it makes me think of the first really spring-y day of the year.

It’s worth your time if you can get to the Deyoung in the next couple of weeks.

Grace Coddington seems like a fun person

A very sun-faded copy. I’m pretty sure the cover should be a uniform shade of orange.

Grace is, as advertised, Grace Coddington’s memoir. She is a hoot, and this is a fun story of a person who loves clothes and fashion and art practicing her craft throughout the mid- to late- twentieth century. She certainly sounds like a lively person to be around and being in the fashion world during that time seems like a hoot.

Unfortunately, I only got through about half of this book because, while she seems like a great person who is full of enthusiasm, the story got a bit repetitive (she’s in London! no Paris! now London again!) and it was more name-droppy than I would have liked. Don’t get me wrong, she’s just talking about her friends, but a little bit less of making sure we know she knows these people and more about fashion in the 1960s and beyond would have been better. It was eventually tiresome.

Wide but not deep

I didn’t realize when I picked this up that How Do We Look is a companion book to the Civilisations show on PBS. As a companion to a television series – or rather two episodes of a television series about art and creativity help civilization happen – it’s broader and less deep than I had expected. I should note that I haven’t watched the television show.

However, sometimes broad but not deep allows you to see similarities and to see contrasting patterns; like Christianity allows for images of God in a way Islam doesn’t, but Islam then beautifies language into art. Both allow you to focus on the religion and the stories it tells.

How do we look means how have we been taught to regard the world – for example how has the art we’ve seen taught us about the male gaze? Or how have religious icons taught us to view stories?

It was a lovely afternoon read, full of gorgeous pictures.

Beauty and Art and Death

Elegance of the Hedgehog

What’s it about?
The Elegance of the Hedgehog is about its three main characters: Renee, the concierge of an apartment building in Paris; Paloma, the super-smart 12-year-old who is already tired of life; and Ozu, the new Japanese tenant. Renee is also an autodidact who hides her intelligence, afraid that everyone else will discover her; Paloma is frustrated by her family; and Ozu is the magical person who brings out the best in both of them.

Why should you read it?
I should state up front that the Elegance of the Hedgehog is French. It takes place in Paris, it is largely about death and philosophy, and has a very particular voice. It was for me, but it is not for everyone.

I found it to be a beautiful character sketch with all kinds of philosophical asides about art and death. (Did I mention it has a very French outlook?) Do I agree with its ideas about Death and Beauty and Art? I do agree that we are, in the end, all worm food, and I also agree with the idea that there are people who are more authentically elegant than others. The author seems in particular to damn people who want cultural power without appreciating the culture. Like the people who raise money for causes because it means they get to dress up and go to the party where they are seen and see others; not because they care for the cause. She holds a lot of contempt for those folks. They still do good things, of course, but for suspicious motives.

I enjoyed it, particularly because I had been reading a book I didn’t much care for right before it. This one made my¬†world better.