“I would like to paint the way a bird sings.” ~ Claude Monet
Today, a mini feast celebrating Claude Monet. There are very few of us who are not enamored with Impressionist art, and as writers, artists, and poets, we know only too well the great joy and frustration that can define the creative process.
You probably know that Monet developed cataracts late in life that severely impaired his acute perception of colors and light, the very hallmarks of his work. His world took on a yellowish tinge, and his paintings gradually became more reddish and muddied, the familiar scenes he so luminously depicted before appearing almost unrecognizable.
In a letter to a friend he said, ” . . . my poor eyesight makes me see everything in a complete fog. It’s all very beautiful just the same and it’s this which I’d loved to have been able to convey.” When he could no longer trust his eyes, he carefully read the labels on paint tubes, kept a regular order of colors on his palette, and painted from memory.
Lisel Mueller’s poignant “Monet Refuses the Operation” is a beautiful testament to the mind’s eye, an inspiring philosophy, an artist’s credo, a passionate affirmation for all creatives: there’s more than one way of seeing.
MONET REFUSES THE OPERATION
by Lisel Mueller
Doctor, you say there are no haloes
around the streetlights in Paris
and what I see is an aberration
caused by old age, an affliction.
I tell you it has taken me all my life
to arrive at the vision of gas lamps as angels,
to soften and blur and finally banish
the edges you regret I don’t see,
to learn that the line I called the horizon
does not exist and sky and water,
so long apart, are the same state of being.
Fifty-four years before I could see
Rouen cathedral is built
of parallel shafts of sun,
and now you want to restore
my youthful errors: fixed
notions of top and bottom,
the illusion of three-dimensional space,
from the bridge it covers.
What can I say to convince you
the Houses of Parliament dissolve
night after night to become
the fluid dream of the Thames?
I will not return to a universe
of objects that don’t know each other,
as if islands were not the lost children
of one great continent. The world
is flux, and light becomes what it touches,
becomes water, lilies on water,
above and below water,
becomes lilac and mauve and yellow
and white and cerulean lamps,
small fists passing sunlight
so quickly to one another
that it would take long, streaming hair
inside my brush to catch it.
To paint the speed of light!
Our weighted shapes, these verticals,
burn to mix with air
and change our bones, skin, clothes
to gases. Doctor,
if only you could see
how heaven pulls earth into its arms
and how infinitely the heart expands
to claim this world, blue vapor without end.
~ Copyright © 1986 Lisel Mueller, from Second Language (Louisiana State University Press).
After years of resistance, Monet finally agreed to surgery on his right eye in 1923. With the lens in that eye removed, it is thought he then saw the world with UV vision, and his palette took on a bluish hue. Since he died just two years later and destroyed many of the paintings from his cataract period, we cannot fully assess what effect the surgery ultimately had on his artistic style.
* * *
❤ CLAUDE MONET’S MADELEINES AU CITRON ❤
Did you know Monsieur Monet was as passionate about food as he was about painting? His gorgeous country home in Giverny was a place not only to paint en plein-air, but to host luminaries of the day for delicious 3-4 course meals largely prepared with ingredients from his own two-acre kitchen garden and farmyard.
Just as he planted his extensive flower gardens so he could paint them, he paid careful attention to the aesthetics of his kitchen and adjoining dining room, the blues and yellows so pleasing to the eye and therefore conducive to good appetite and fine conversation.
Monet kept cooking journals and was quite the gourmand, supervising daily meals which revolved around his work schedule. He rose early, had a hearty breakfast, then painted till lunch, served precisely at 11:30, so he could take best advantage of the afternoon light. Apparently he never invited guests for dinner, preferring to eat soup, leftovers, and cheese so he could retire early.
After a visit to Monet’s studio and greenhouses, guests such as Renoir, Pissarro, and Cézanne would enjoy lunch before relaxing with tea and sweets near the pond or under the lime trees. I can’t think of a better place to nibble on these scrumptious cake-like cookies, can you?
To make sure Monet’s favorite madeleines were prepared to perfection, we enlisted the services of Chef Bernaise, a recent graduate of the highly regarded culinary institute, Le Cordon Bear. I daresay he was a whiz in the kitchen, his light and airy madeleines a buttery dream with a refreshing hint of lemon.
One bite and we were instantly transported to a fragrant garden of climbing roses, anenomes, hollyhocks, daisies and poppies — and oh yes, near the pond, the weeping willows, wisterias, nympheas, and those glorious water lilies.🙂
Chef Bernaise is confident that you, too, can recreate this mini symphony where palate meets palette. For now, enjoy another madeleine!
MADELEINES AU CITRON
- 1-1/4 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 4 eggs, separated
- 1 cup unbleached flour
- grated rind of one lemon
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Lightly grease and flour 12 madeleine moulds.
In a bowl, combine the sugar, butter and egg yolks, beating well until the mixture turns pale.
Beat the egg whites into soft peaks. Gradually add the butter mixture to the whites, alternately with one tablespoon of the flour mixed with the grated rind, until the mixture and the flour are used up.
Place a teaspoon of the mixture in each mould. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes.
~Adapted from The Modern Art Cookbook by Mary Ann Caws (Reaktion Books, 2013).
* * *
BAKING DAY AT GRANDMA’S GIVEAWAY WINNER!
Thanks for all your enthusiastic comments about Anika and Christopher Denise’s adorable new book! To pick the winner, the resident bears consulted with Monsieur Random Integer Generator, who only had to be bribed with 243 chocolate cakes.
We’re pleased to announce that the winner of a signed copy of Baking Day at Grandma’s, a wooden spoon, and some lovely gift tags is . . .
WooHoo! CONGRATULATIONS, JOANNA!!
Please send your snail mail address to: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com so we can get your book out to you lickety split!
And thanks again, everyone, for entering!
* * *
Ma belle Michelle is hosting the Roundup at Today’s Little Ditty. Take her some madeleines and check out the full menu of delicious poetic offerings being served up in the blogosphere this week. Bon Appétit!
* * *
This post is also being linked to Beth Fish Read’s Weekend Cooking, where all are invited to share their food-related posts. Put on your best bibs and aprons and come join the fun!
Copyright © 2014 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.