Carren's Pitch

Life by Design

I didn't expect to like Monet's Water Lilies, but I did. Executed large-scale, these paintings gave me a sense of continuity and rhythm. It was my good fortune to see this exhibition, even though I originally went to see the Bauhaus exhibition (which was still closed to the public, I missed the opening by one day).

Monet's Water Lilies features 4 other works by the master, but this piece focuses on the two largest works on display. If you have time and you're in the area, a visit to the MoMA is definitely worth it.
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On a Saturday morning, the Museum of Modern Art is a crush of humanity. Everywhere there are warm bodies alongside modern masterpieces. Looking down from its upper galleries, one sees infinite speckles of people milling about in what could be the beginnings of a Pollock painting.

The walls bear a similar story of constant activity. Six floors brim with art and escalators shepherd people eagerly waiting to view them. Rather than contemplate an artwork, one feels rushed to take it all in, then step aside for the next visitor.

An endless parade of artworks only escalates this feeling of urgency. Picassos, Giacomettis, Klimts. The list goes on and on, inspiring a rush of adrenaline in the race to see everything. One's pulse quickens and the countdown to traverse the whole museum begins.

But the clock stops as you enter Monet’s Water Lilies.

Two enormous paintings—both entitled Water Lilies—gives one pause. The first mural-sized painting is a single panel painting a bit more than 6 feet tall and 19 feet wide. Swimming with blues, greens, pinks and flesh, the viewer is immersed in a hazy rendition of Monet’s Japanese garden in Giverny.

On the opposite wall proudly hangs another Water Lilies, this time rendered in three panels spanning a total of almost 42 feet in width and more than 6 feet in height. This particular painting presents a more somber palette. Navy blues travel the canvas coalescing into lighter blues. Strokes of green hint at lily pads while caresses of pink on the upper right corner brighten the whole. Here, there is serenity like the hush of dusk when it falls.

Caught between these massive paintings, the viewer is stilled. No longer are there dizzying staccatos of paintings and sculpture on the wall, there is only a procession of dreamy strokes and color. Larger than life, these paintings invite us to dive into the scene, our senses engulfed in the miasma.
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Monet's Water Lilies is on view at the Museum of Modern Art, New York from September 13, 2009–April 12, 2010. For more information, log onto: moma.org.

Photo credit: Carren Jao

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