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  Monet Logo Bottom From the exhibition theme Forces of Nature  

Modern Life Modern Vision
Forces of Nature
The Series
Forces of Nature
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In 1878 Monet moved from the modern city to Vétheuil, a country town accessible only by horse-drawn transport, and then to the tiny village of Giverny, even further from Paris. Although he returned to traditional landscape subjects — the rich agricultural land of the Ile de France — his mode of painting continued to be shaped by modern dynamism in his rapid use of brushstrokes and his determination to capture momentary effects of light.

Monet made several trips to the Norman and Breton coasts in north western France, where he painted cliffs and rocks weathered by the unceasing movement of the sea. He used long strokes of colour to suggest geological forces and the movement of water.

These paintings indicate that Monet developed such techniques from the close study of his own Japanese prints, whose artists used abstract curves and spirals to represent the energies within weathered rocks and surging seas.

In much the same way that some Japanese paintings depict scholars meditating on nature in pavilions perched on cliffs above the sea, Monet would isolate himself in nature — he once anchored his easel to a cliff to paint a storm. He also made frequent visits to Paris, where he would have seen Japanese scroll and screen paintings in art dealers’ galleries and his friends’ collections. His increasingly dynamic brushwork indicates close study of Japanese ink painting.

Japanese art expresses the traditional belief in the interconnectedness and harmony of the natural world through the course of the seasons. Elements of nature such as snow, the moon and flowers were used to symbolise such beliefs.

In prints and paintings, Japanese artists frequently represented the movement of waves against a tranquil sky, combining the two opposing elements to evoke the dynamism of nature. Human presence, an integral part of the natural world, was often depicted in ukiyo-e prints acting in concert with nature. Monet’s own connection with the natural world around him was vividly expressed in his paintings in ways influenced by his appreciation of Japanese art.