The entire wall in the room was painted with water lilies on the pond.
The gentle curvature in an oblong shaped exhibit room unveils the mirrored pond reflecting the summer blue sky and the inverted reflection of the clouds. Water lilies are in full bloom glowing under the ivory and crimson radiance. I stepped inside the painting and immediately metamorphosed into a pebble that was thrown into the pond. My body hit mid air, splashed onto the water surface and steadily rolled down the algae forest. The golden foam embraced me as the sunlight pouring through sparkled on the water folds. As I gently settled on the pond bottom, I look up and the summer sky is swaying beyond the water surface. Many summers ago, as the towering thundercloud was closing in in the background, Claude Monet chased his landscapes: the riverbank with sprouted green buds, the hills with blooming poppies, and the bright sunlit meadows. He carried an easel on his back, paints and tool bag on his shoulder.
I hurried to catch up to him. I ran hard. I felt the wind and the collard ribbon touched my cheek, the hem of my dress rubbed the poppy pollen and dirt stuck to my leather shoes. I did not care about the stain on the frills of my dress or whether my hat was blown away by the wind. I saw an ordinary scenery transform into the most extraordinary landscape in the world through the eyes of Monet. I devote myself to him just to witness this moment.
“You will get sunburnt if you stay out in the sun too long.” said Monet. I told him I was alright. I would like to stay by your side, even if that means I am exposed to the sun for a long time. He laughed it off saying that’s quite the speech. If that is the case, you are more than welcome to come to my atelier.
Monet’s atelier was outside, under the blue sky. Normally an artist would choose a musty and dark, north facing room for an atelier, but Monet went outside into the light and sketched landscapes as if he was painting a still life. Everything changes from moment to moment: the changing seasons, sunrise and sunsets, rain, wind and snow. These and the artist’s mind and perspective dictate how the landscape is viewed and depicted. No two landscapes are the same and it is where my atelier is too, outside, under the blue sky.
One spring day, I was exposed to a storm of criticism but I kept drawing through summer. Fall arrived and I lost my beloved person so I stopped painting for some time until one winter, I began to paint again.
My father who once was the patron to Monet went bankrupt and left my mother and six kids to him. We shared a loaf of bread together and lived under one roof. Monet painted vigorously for our family and to survive as an artist. Someday, we will live in a house with a large garden. We’ll plant our favorite flowers and create a pond with water lilies. We will live happily ever after, Monet would say, sipping soup with pieces of vegetables. I knew it was not just a dream. In my eyes, I envisioned a garden blooming with flowers and a pond covered with water lilies. I believed that someday, we will live there.
In a charming village called Giverny, Monet created a paradise and we became a real family.
During the days in Giverny, Monet continued to paint water lilies in his atelier. I kept chasing and staying with him. Monet’s fuller beard turned gray as well as my own hair. Monet kept painting even though he started to lose his sight absorbing too much light. He saw with his soul the ever-changing world around us and landscapes full of light.
The museum in the Tuilerie Park by the river Seine displays a spitting-image of the actual water lily pond at Giverny. I had finally come to see it.
As I immersed myself into the painting, I metamorphosed into a pebble that was thrown into the water lily pond then into a water lily flower which Monet scooped up in his hands.
This is Claude Monet’s atelier, where everything is timeless and perpetual.