Texas Spring à la Monet

The words are Monet’s. The flowers — Bluebonnets, Toadflax, Phlox, Butterweed, Old Plainsman, Indian Paintbrush — are typically Texan.
 “Paint what you really see, not what you think you ought to see; not the object isolated as in a test tube, but the object enveloped in sunlight and atmosphere, with the blue dome of Heaven reflected in the shadows.”
“For me, the subject is of secondary importance: I want to convey what is alive between me and the subject.”
“I am chasing a dream, I want the unattainable. Other artists paint a bridge, a house, a boat; and that’s the end. They’ve finished. I want to paint the air which surrounds the bridge, the house, the boat; the beauty of the air in which these objects are located; and that is nothing short of impossible. If only I could satisfy myself with what is possible!”
“For me, a landscape does not exist in its own right, since its appearance changes at every moment; but the surrounding atmosphere brings it to life – the light and the air which vary continually. For me, it is only the surrounding atmosphere which gives subjects their true value.”
“When you go out to paint, try to forget what objects you have before you, a tree, a house, a field or whatever. Merely think here is a little square of blue, here an oblong of pink, here a streak of yellow, and paint it just as it looks to you, the exact color and shape, until it gives your own naïve impression of the scene before you.”
The light constantly changes, and that alters the atmosphere and beauty of things every minute.”


Comments always are welcome.

60 thoughts on “Texas Spring à la Monet

    1. I enjoyed seeing these pastel fields. The bold colors of Indian paintbrush and bluebonnets are attractive, but they’re not the only spring delight around here.

    1. Sometimes I’ll look for a photo to illustrate text, but as I looked at these impressionistic photos, there was no question that Monet’s words would suit them perfectly. I had to smile at his expressed frustration with the difficulty of capturing the light. Since picking up a camera, I’ve learned a bit about that.

  1. People from outside Texas are going to feel envious. (And you’d have felt envious, too, if you hadn’t made that weekend trip.) Your soft, multicolored photographic approach well suits the words you quoted.

    1. Monet’s one of my favorite artists, and it was sheer pleasure to find flower-filled fields that recalled so much of his work. I doubled my fun by changing settings at some of these same fields, so that the images were sharper and the colors bolder. This is the same field as that shown in the last photo, and it’s taken from the same spot.

  2. Your photos are worthy of Monet, Linda. And thanks for the quotes. There was one that I had not come across that is very much in line with my own views on subject matter: “For me, the subject is of secondary importance: I want to convey what is alive between me and the subject.”

    1. And doesn’t that quotation reflect the same dynamic as that which exists between a painting and an observer? Whatever the art critics say about the quality of a painting, it’s that ineffable sense of vitality that can make even the ‘worst’ painting evoke sighs of delight from someone.

    1. I love these pastel fields as much as the brighter and bolder bluebonnets and such. I really was surprised that I didn’t find at least one plein air painter out and about; I’m sure at least a few had their easels set up somewhere.

    1. One of the lines that caught me is, “Paint what you really see, not what you think you ought to see…”
      So many people let their presuppositions about nature cloud their vision, while others simply don’t take the time to see the wonders spread out before them.

    1. I suppose all of the great artists (or even some of us pedestrian artists!) reflect on the work that’s produced; that’s what makes reading their correspondence, journals, and such so interesting. There’s always a gap between what’s envisioned and what’s produced, and Monet’s fascination with light and water necessarily meant that the gap was especially large: hence his frustrations with being able to replicate what he saw.

    1. I was pleased to find such a variety of flowers in bloom, and a few surprises as lagniappe. It would have been great fun to plop Monet down in the midst of these fields, and watch him attempt to capture the changing light and color.

    1. I thought about some of you artists as I was exploring Monet’s words. Gaining confidence in our own vision of the world is as much of a challenge as learning how to manipulate our chosen materials — but it’s great fun, too, and there’s evidence that Monet had a bit of fun in his time.

  3. Manicured lawns of Bermuda grass or St. Augustine grass are not only ecologically damaging, they’re boring. Give me a wild flower meadow any day. Mentioning Monet made me think of Seurat. The pointillists would go nuts with a view like that. I wonder what Van Gogh would do with it.

    1. Well, we know what Van Gogh could do with sunflowers, so I suspect he’d find a way to honor these, as well. It’s been interesting to watch the slow but steady change in what constitutes a ‘nice lawn.’ It seems the standard for the developers down here still is all grass, one tree, and a row of bushes, but every time someone dares to plant natives, and someone else admires it, another step’s been taken.

    1. I thought about these as wall-sized paintings, too. One of the details I learned about Monet’s en plein air process is that he would find a spot that he was interested in painting and set up his canvas. If the canvas was large, he would dig a trench and lower the canvas, so that he could continue painting without changing his viewpoint.

  4. Oh my goodness I am in LOVE with those fields! Glorious!

    As a side note, have you ever tried to do a jigsaw puzzle of an impressionist painting? Now that will make your eye twitch. Ha!

    1. They really were beautiful. I love a big, monochromatic spread of flowers as much as anyone, but I’ll confess that these ‘mixed bouquets’ are equally appealing. Heretical as it might sound, in a forced choice between a huge field of bluebonnets and one of these fields, I might go for the mix.

      One of these as a jigsaw puzzle would be as challenging as some of the black and white geometric puzzles I’ve seen, but it would be a lot more pleasurable to work.

  5. How very lovely. Your photos are a perfect match for Monet’s musings. If they were oils, I could imagine myself in an art museum, looking at Impressionist paintings.

    1. This is the second time I’ve seen the landscape through Monet’s eyes, so to speak. The other time was early spring in Mississippi, on an old plantation. There were more shades of green there than I’ve ever seen in one place, and white wisteria. There was spiderwort, too, but the visit was so long ago I’d not yet come to recognize it. But the light was wonderful.

      As soon as I started going through the photos, I knew that I had to show these together, with some of Monet’s musings. It seemed a perfect fit.

  6. I am re-reading Mad Enchantment, about Monet – well, reading for the third time. Your sublime photos would be perfectly in place as examples of his style. Lovely post!

    1. We talk about art imitating life, but now and then life imitates art. When it happens, and when it’s as beautiful as these fields were, it’s quite wonderful.

  7. Be still my heart — these are breath-taking, Linda! How blessed Texas is, to be surrounded by such beauty! Of course, there are stunning places throughout the world, but some places, we just “get” more than others … and Monet’s words show how much he would’ve gotten these wildflowers. Thanks for sharing.

    1. I agree, Debbie. Monet would have loved our landscape: both the flowers and the light. I suspect that one of the reasons our spring glory isn’t as well known as other world beauties is that it’s both short-lived and sometimes hard to predict. Nature doesn’t use our calendars; it’s impossible to know which country road is going to be awash in color, or when the bloom will happen. Of course, the other side of that coin is that every drive into the country is a voyage of discovery. There’s often no predicting what we’ll be able to see.

    1. Thanks, Tina. Sometimes my mind doesn’t make particularly useful connections, but in this case everything fell together perfectly. I smiled to think of Monet, canvas and brush at hand, enjoying the scenes himself, and capturing them in his inimitable way.

  8. Now I miss Texas even more.

    If Monet had been plunked down in one of those fields, he would never have been heard of again. He would have been so enthralled he’d never leave. Except maybe for some BBQ.

    A truly beautiful Spring smorgasbord.

    1. Even though the natural garden we enjoy isn’t so carefully planned and tended as his garden at Giverny, I think you’re right: the profusion of color and the ever-shifting light would have kept Monet at his canvases for days on end. Besides: we have water lilies, too. If he got bored on the prairies, he could have headed for the water — picking up that BBQ on the way!

  9. Wow, this was definitely a twofer post, what with the beautiful photographs that are almost paintings in their own right, and then some very thoughtful words from one of the great painters. I wasn’t familiar with any of those quotes, at least not that I recall, but I enjoyed them. Do you have a book about Monet?

    1. I didn’t grasp the ‘painterly’ quality of these photos until I saw them large size; if you haven’t clicked the photos to enlarge them, it really is worth it. I’ve read a good bit about Monet, but I don’t have any books, apart from two or three catalogues from exhibitions where his work was included. Recently, his work was included at an exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston: a one-time showing of paintings curated by the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

    1. I’m glad I ‘pushed the boundaries’ a little on this trip and went for the wider, landscape shots as well as studies of individual flowers. I thought they turned out well — glad you enjoyed them!

    1. It is beautiful, and there’s nothing quite like the experience of rounding a country corner and seeing sights like these spread out before us. On the other hand, a little predictability can be welcome, too. Look at these fabulous photos of this year’s tulip crop in Holland.

  10. Wow. I’ve seen pictures of fields/meadows like these from Texas but to see this collection and then paired with your quote of Monet is just a spectacular post.

    1. Thanks, Steve. Finding ways to present photos similar to those that others post can be a challenge, but this one almost constructed itself. The similarities of the landscape to Monet’s paintings was obvious, especially in the images where my setting choices resulted in a softer result. If you’ve not enlarged them, it’s worth it. The look of a Monet painting increases — altogether a good thing! I’ll get Monet would be amazed and delighted that people today are thinking of his art when they see scenes like this.

      1. Many artists never realize popularity and respect in their lifetimes. I think that Monet did but agree he would be amazed at his place in art history and people’s appreciation today and into the future. And I bet he’d be delighted that you thought of him as you made these images.

    1. That is a pretty combination. Just yesterday I noticed ditches filled with what I think was spring obedient plant ((Physostegia intermedia). I need to go back and check that out — so many flowers, so little time!

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed it, Tanja. It wasn’t my intention in the beginning, but once I saw the photos, and thought of Monet, it was a natural combination. I enjoy artists’ reflections on their work generally, and Monet’s obsession with light and color is especially interesting.

  11. Love it, Linda. Being a fan of the impressionists and having spent numerous hours in art museums pondering over their magic, I think your photos capture it perfectly. –Curt

    1. It can be easy to forget that nature truly does serve as inspiration for many artists; it clearly was the case for Monet. It was especially fun to ponder the reciprocity here: art imitated life for Monet, while life imitated art for me.

    1. If I were a painter, these fields would have made wonderful subjects. I’m sure that somewhere a plein air artist was at work capturing their beauty, and like you I’m certain Monet would have found them attractive.

    1. It was quite a revelation to me when I learned that Monet was a gardener as well as a painter, but I’m not sure even he couldn’t create views like these. No matter: it was enough that he created a vision of the natural world that still suggests itself to us so many years later.

    1. I loved seeing the flowers, but I also enjoyed reading again about Monet, and reading some of his own musings about nature and his art. What a painter he was!

    1. It’s been a beautiful spring, and it was great fun exploring Monet’s thoughts about his own process. I’ve never focused on our pastel fields before, and I’m glad I was able to this year.

  12. How did I miss this posting? The macro portraits are exquisite but the wide angle views are breathtaking. So glad I scrolled through your postings.

    1. I’m feeling a little more confident about landscape photos recently, even though I don’t have the wide-angle lenses and such that are said to make that kind of photo easier. I was pleased with these, myself. Spring is so much more than bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush, and I thought these photos captured that ‘pastel side of spring’ pretty well. I’m glad you enjoyed them!

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