“common” subject matter

I continue to be surprised when I read, Ross King’s book, Mad Enchantment, about Monet. What I find is this wonderful narration of discovery. And it intrigues me to read about how an artist finds their way.

To roughly share my latest delightful “a-ha!” moment for Monet: in 1871 he was buying spices from a shop in Holland. When he unwrapped his goods he noticed they were covered in this beautiful paper – in fact, a woodblock print. He went back to the store and purchased all that exotic wrapping. It had come over on the boat with the spices from Japan and were prints by Utamaro and Hokusai! What a start to Monet’s love for Japanese art.

Intriguingly, one aspect that he found so compelling about Japanese art was not the use of line or color but… the “common” subject matter: local scenery, everyday activities. I had not realized that that permission to paint his garden scenery came from looking at Japanese art. And that it all was instigated by something so unexpected and easily overlooked as food wrapping paper.

For me, it was a reminder that art is in the eye of the beholder. It reminds me to trust my own instincts. It reminds me that the larger world of art moves forward because of what the artist responds to. What the artist then creates. And what that artist shares.

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