Stealing from an Impressionist painter was never going to be easy. Monet’s paintings are characterised by their brushstrokes rather than their content, which presented me with a dilemma; how could I steal their ‘Impression’ quality with just my camera?
What makes this painting of Monet’s second wife Hoschédé Suzanne so beautiful is primarily the bold colourful brushstrokes that the artist has pieced together like a jigsaw, rather than the subject and composition. Therefore I had to think of another aspect of this painting that gave it a fleeting, impression-like quality, and one that I would be able to capture on camera. After investigating this piece it soon became apparent: the weather.
The Impressionists loved plein air painting. The invention of paint in a tube and easier travel with the new railways allowed artists like Monet to escape Paris and head for the countryside to capture rural beauty. This resulted in such artists recording all aspects of nature, including the weather. In this painting, for example, Monet has concentrated on the structure of the clouds, the parasol shading the subject from the sun’s rays and most importantly the wind.
One can almost feel and hear the rustle of wind when looking at this painting. The blades of grass are bending, the bottom of the woman’s dress sways gently and her light scarf looks as though it could blow away at any second.
I realised that to capture the essence of this painting, I would have to catch the wind first. I waited for the customary strong winds to march through Edinburgh, and eventually they came. I dressed in rather strange clothes and took my tripod to Carlton Hill, the windiest and wildest place I could think of in the city.
If I couldn’t steal the formal qualities of the painting, I was going to steal as much of the weather as I could. I wrapped my bed sheet around my waist hoping that the wind would twist it into interesting shapes, and held a flimsy umbrella that would bend under the force of it. I then waited for a patch of blue to peek through the clouds in order to try and capture a similar sky to Monet’s.
After I got the shot I wanted, I began to play with images of the weather. I thought of how composed Monet’s wife was in the painting, and that if she was experiencing wind anything like mine then she too must have had difficulty holding on to her parasol!