One of the few perks of being an English major student is having an excuse to talk about some of the most mundane or the most outlandish things possible . I do not know where exactly this article falls but it all started with a recommendation to watch an obscure BBC documentary. Thankfully, it was easily available on YouTube. It is called ‘ The Impressionists’ . It is about the life of Claude Monet and his fellow artists who were the pioneers of a new wave of painters and were called, well, the ‘The Impressionists’.
Now I’m no art enthusiast , my early experiences with paints and brushes were not exactly pleasant. Let’s just say we parted on less than friendly terms, so imagine the surprise when I not only managed to sit through 3 episodes of the series but am also attempting to write about art. Yet it’s not just art I am writing art—I’m writing about me and hopefully about you.
I’m writing about this belief at the heart of Monet, Cezanne and all those people who struggled for their art in 19th century Paris. Their main opponent was tradition. To drag art away from the veil of the lofty institutions of religion, culture, politics and patriotism. I do not believe they were talking about just art, they were talking about life. These were men who chased those moments of life – from the shimmering of light on the water, to the burning of the sun and the shades of grey to be found on the Thames. They saw life as it was, just as people were living it. Art should not have to amount to something greater. It should not be the means to portray some ideal and neither should life.
Why should our lives and our choices be answerable to tradition? Is it necessary for every action, every thought, every sentiment to have an underlying deeper meaning- a higher purpose which is ratified by the tradition?
Monet found his ever changing universe – with all its light and all its colours, in a pond. Cezanne struggled all his life to find his truth and ending up astonishing Paris and the world with an apple- a still life painting of irreproachable perfection. All their life they chased these fleeting moments. But tradition has a dirty trick that it plays on such revolutionaries. The moment the world comes around to this change and accepts it.
In its acceptance these revolutionaries become conventions themselves – ratified by the same institution which they have struggled against. Hence, the cycle continues and so does the struggle. Monet was the pioneer – the future of a new generation of painters. The father of Impressionist painting they call him. Confining him to convention and a particular school of art, I doubt Monet and his fellow impressionists would consider this as a victory.
After all, they were the men of light, colour and sky, too brazen to be confined to a few pages of an era.
Written By: Satavisha Gupta