A few years ago, I saw the Turner, Whistler, Monet exhibit at the AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario). I was walking around the gallery, admiring the paintings, and as I turned, came face to face with a painting that filled one wall and brought tears to my eyes. So this is why Monet is famous, I thought. Some paintings don’t translate well into reproductions. The ubiquitous posters of Monet lilies that turn up, like elevator music, wherever soothing is desired, don’t have the beauty of the originals, but are pretty in a kind of bland way. This painting that stunned me and made me stand and look and look, in photographs I’d seen had been just a grey mesh. But the original! I never knew there could be so many shades of beauty in a grey palette. The story that was told by the silouhettes of the boatmen and the workers on the docks, their bowed backs, their motions only come through in the full sized original. If you get a chance to see it in London or in a travelling exhibit, don’t miss it. This was a lesson to me: the power of grey, the beauty in the most unlikely colour. What love Monet must have had in that paintbrush to make grey astonishing.
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