An Immersive Art Experience in Paris
Back in 1991, my husband and I had only been married a couple of years and we were living in London, we spent 3 months driving and camping around Europe. We were young and hungry for art and culture - we crammed in every historic town, gallery, museum, castle, cathedral, garden and beautiful attraction you can imagine. We didn’t go out of our way to do or see things just to say we had been there, done that. But since we were in the Louvre, we lined up to view the Mona Lisa and we were both rather underwhelmed by her compared with the richness of beauty we had seen in so many other artworks.
One afternoon, we decided to escape the bustling crowds and spend a couple of hours in the Musee de l’Orangerie and after looking at some of the lovely Impressionist works, we ventured downstairs to see the famed Waterlily Series. (yada yada yada…”may as well since we are here”) I had grown up with framing hundreds of reproduction prints of Monet’s art and the familiarity had bred contempt. By this time I had warmed to his painting although he was far from a favourite artist of mine. My expectations were about level with Mona Lisa.
But how mistaken I was! The room was a watery sanctuary, hushed and sacred. I felt goosebumps all over and to even utter a word was wrong. Thankfully everyone else felt the same sense of reverent awe and need to simply stand quietly and drink in the experience. This was well before the days of mobile phone cameras and I’ve been back since and the magic is slightly broken with people taking selfies…
image attribute - By Brady Brenot https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=64376531
That day I learned that Monet’s 30 years of painting waterlilies were not wasted on chocolate box art. He had a deep purpose and vision for his work, it is other people who have distorted and diluted his powerful art by creating poor quality reproductions.
image attribute By Claude Monet - Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22628883
This is what the Musee de l’Orangerie says about the Water Lily Rooms: “The two ovals evoke the symbol of infinity, whereas the paintings represent the cycle of light throughout the day. The painter wanted visitors to be able to immerse themselves completely in the painting and to forget about the outside world. The end of the First World War in 1918 reinforced his desire to offer beauty to wounded souls.” You can see the Waterlilies online here. So it is no accident or coincidence that Monet’s art is a balm to a weary soul. It was his direct intention and he succeeded entirely.
I’m most happy to be proven wrong and Monet is one of my very favourite artists and the waterlily room remains one of the most incredible experiences I’ve ever had.