More about The Japanese Footbridge
Oscar Claude Monet could fly to the moon and back for his garden in Giverny.
But if you try to take away a man’s right to build his lily pond because you’re afraid the exotic plants will poison your water, then he won't be your friend. Monet’s neighbors didn’t get the memo; he fought them hard and finally got his way. He made more than 250 paintings of his garden and the Japanese footbridge over the lily pond is featured in quite a few of them. Monet painted this footbridge in 1899. After years of painting nature as it is, Monet could finally design nature for his canvas. He carefully designed every feature of his beautiful garden. He strategically planted irises and lilies, good solid colors. He refused to include plants like ficus or croton, basically leafy plants that have patterns on them and they would appear splotchy. In Monet's opinion, those plants looked unnatural.
His relationship with his garden is what fairytales were made of. They overcame obstacles, fell in love, and promised to be together, forever. Monet preferred painting plen-air, in his garden. Sitting in front of his lily pond, he would paint the same scene every day as the light slowly changed. He may have been the first painter to attempt time-lapse visualization in the 19th century. Coincidentally, Georges Melies, pioneer filmmaker, was the first to attempt the technique in cinema in 1897. Both of these artists were in and around Paris at the same time. I doubt they ever met, but their friendship could have been legendary.
Monet was truly blessed with a green thumb, but he was painting at the mercy of nature. However, when it came to human intervention, Monet mostly got his way. When he was working on the Poplar tree series near Giverny, the villagers decided to auction the trees. But Monsieur Monet had a series of paintings he had to complete. He couldn't let a lumberjack get in the way. He paid the buyer to get him to delay felling the trees. People-0. Monet-1.
Monet’s genius lay in his understanding of time. He wasn’t just painting an instance in time. Each individual work represented a passage of time. The Japanese footbridge wasn’t one moment of a particular day. Monet stretched the moment in the garden, pervading different instances of time. He let us enter his garden and then quickly locked the door behind us. It's like living in a GIF, only you aren’t a part of it. The moment persists, with or without you. The Japanese footbridge continues to cross the lily pond, without Monet.
- Smart, Alastair. “Why are Monet’s water-lilies so popular?”. The Telegraph. Accessed May 27, 2019. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/art-features/11167000/Why-are-M…
- Clark, Nick. “Monet's water lilies: How the iconic paintings almost never made it to the canvas”. Independent. Accessed May 27, 2019. https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/art/news/monets-water-…
- Olson, Cathy. “The Gardens of Clause Monet”. Emmitsburg.net. Accessed May 27, 2019. https://www.emmitsburg.net/gardens/articles/adams/2012/claude_monet.htm
- Metmuseum.org. “The Four Trees, 1891”. Calude Monet | The Four Trees | The Met. Accessed May 27, 2019. https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/437121
I only discovered Claude Monet after looking at paintings by John Singer Sargent and finding out that they were "hanging out." It intrigued me because I knew many artists enjoyed each other's company, but I wanted to understand why these two specifically. After quickly looking through his biography, the first painting that caught my eye was this one because of all the peace that emanates from it. Therefore, I believe the theme of this painting is finding peace on the journey.
The bridge, which is the center of attention in this painting generally symbolizes communication, but it could also symbolize the passage from one place to another, from one level to another, or from one state (of being) to another. This leads me to believe that in order to find peace, we need to be able to come to terms with the principle of outgrowing one level, place, state, or season, and reaching for the other in order for us to remain stable. This bridge would then represent our realization that it is time to move on, as well as our willingness to go on that new journey in order for us to grow.
Secondly, the flowers growing underneath the bridge on the water show that there can be beauty during the transition from one place to another, and it benefits us to take the time to slow down enough to admire it and take it all in. Going over the bridge too quickly would cause one to miss out on the great view while going too slowly would cause one to be bored with the sight. So the ideal speed is a steady pace that would allow the person to move forward during their transition without missing the great details about the journey.
Finally, the use of vivid colors in the painting shows that peace is generally accompanied by joy. The pink and yellow of the flowers and the various shades of green used in the bushes are what I consider "happy colors" because they transmit a positive message while being uncomplicated.
This truly is a masterpiece and I would love to be able to walk on such a beautiful bridge.
I love this painting because it reminds me of my favorite picture of my mom. In the picture, my mom was riding in a Thai long-tail boat surrounded with lily pads.