For Monet, creating art was all about painting the world as he saw it. And he saw it as moving fields of colour and light. When he painted these fields he created the illusion of a world lit by sunlight, made us see the world he saw as light glancing off water or filtered through mist or reflected off surfaces.
When he began to go blind in 1907, at the age of sixty-eight, he might have considered that a good reason to give up painting. He was a successful artist, and financially secure. Still he continued to work, though what he saw and how he painted changed.
By the 1920s he was virtually blind. In spite of that he began work in 1920 on a series of large scale canvases which he intended to donate to France. On these huge canvases he painted quite differently, using broad areas of colour to create the effects he wanted and working in a way that was not to be seen again for years.
In 1923, when he was about eighty-four, he had two cataract operations. Once again how he saw changed, but his desire and will to paint did not. He continued painting his beloved water lilies until his death in 1926.
Even when he faced the obstacle of declining vision, Monet never stopped painting. Instead he changed, adapting his way of working to make the best use of what he had – his knowledge, his skills and his remaining sight. There were changes in the details, but the essence of his work remained the same.
There is a lesson for us all here – not to give up when faced with this kind of challenge, but instead to adapt and find new ways to do the things we need and want to do.
Thank you, Claude Monet – for the beauty of your work, the creativity of your vision and the example you set.