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Belle-Ile, rain effect
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Group: Forces of Nature

Artist: Claude MONET
Birth/Death: 1840–1926

Title: Belle-Ile, rain effect
Date Made: 1886

Lender: Bridgestone Museum of Art, Tokyo
Credit Line: Ishibashi Foundation, Tokyo

Belle-Ile, rain effect is a product of Monet’s two month stay on the island of Belle-Ile, off the coast of Brittany. He was fascinated by what he called ‘this sinister land’, where great granite outcrops had been twisted into fantastic shapes by the relentless forces of wind and water. Monet kept prolonging his stay so that he could paint the effect of the changing coastal light on these natural features, and the endless waves surging around them.

Monet’s isolation at Belle-Ile was like that of many Japanese painters. It enabled him to submerge himself in nature more profoundly than ever before. His dynamic brushstrokes indicate the intensity of his identification with the forces of nature.

Monet had learnt a lot from his many Japanese prints. Neither he, nor they, imitated nature. His paint looks like paint, yet somehow convinces us that it looks like water. In the same way, the Japanese artist Hiroshige convinces us that his black lines, spirals of white, and different tones of blue, are whirlpools and surging waves.

Monet’s long stay at Belle-Ile enabled him to think himself into nature more profoundly than ever before. Indeed his mode of painting implied dissolution of the thinking self in the dynamic process of creating pictorial form for a nature that ceaselessly changed before him. It was in this context that he was confronted as never before with ‘the intangible, the ungraspable in nature’.

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