“These landscapes of water and reflections have become my obsession. They are quite beyond the powers of an old man, and despite everything I want to succeed in conveying what I feel.” — Claude Monet

This lovely little book, which was published as the catalog for an exhibit at the Cincinnati Art Museum, will delight any lover of Monet’s work or the gardens at Giverny. Offering a fresh look at some of the artist’s masterworks painted between 1883 and 1926, it includes twelve evocative paintings created in and around the gardens—waterlilies and wisteria, the Japanese bridge, poplars and willows reflected in the water garden, and the Seine near Giverny.

The theme here is reflections—reflections in the water, but also reflections on Monet’s experiments with light, color and brushwork. Four illustrated essays expand on this theme as it applies to the artist’s work; Lynne D. Ambrosini’s fascinating essay Mirrored Waters, on the artistic depiction of water and reflections, situates Monet in his historical context, explaining the influence on his work of such predecessors as Corot, Daubigny and Courbet.

The book’s final segment consists of an essay written in 1891 by journalist, novelist and art critic Octave Mirbeau—his firsthand account of visiting Giverny in spring, summer and fall gives a vivid description of the garden’s lushness and variety in the various seasons. First published in L’Art dans les Deux Mondes, it was translated for this catalog, and is illustrated by fifteen historic photos. The photographs show the white-bearded master in his studio at Giverny, posing with brush and palette in front of a giant canvas, strolling or sitting in his beloved gardens, and painting at the edge of the waterlily pond. One remarkable photo was taken by Monet himself, a “self-portrait” in which the shadow of his head in its large straw hat is reflected on the surface of the waterlily pond, just visible at the bottom of the frame—an intriguing example of the artist’s fascination with reflections.

The publication of this book comes just before another special event for Monet lovers: the New York Botanical Garden is hosting a major exhibit, Monet’s Garden, from May 19 to October 21, with “a seasonally changing interpretation of the garden that inspired his art”. Along with the indoor and outdor gardens there are films, concerts, poetry readings and an exhibition of two rarely-seen paintings by the artist. website

Monet in Giverny: Landscapes of Reflection Edited by Benedict Leca. Published by D Giles Limited in association with The Cincinnati Art Museum, 2012. 96 pages, 110 color illustrations.

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