Oct 13, 2007

Monet Couples

In the Monet painting, Terrace-At-Sainte-Adresse, two couples address circumstance. The older couple, judging by his white beard, sits facing the sun. There is the suggestion of estrangement, by the distance between their chairs, by the angles of their bodies, and also because there is a third chair, empty. As though perhaps they await someone, or else someone has come and gone. Something is incomplete. A ghost stands between them. A dead child, perhaps. That the empty chair is to her left seems significiant. Once, she was surrounded, secure and protected by old and younger. Her life had contour. She was in the scheme of things. Now her flank is exposed. She faces the sun and uses her parasol, not to protect herself from the heat but to gather it.

Meanwhile, her man, the old man, appears reflective, silent, stiff. He faces the sun as though it were a spotlight, as though the light itself is praise. And yet he's become a hermit, he's felt no passion in years and now on this late afternoon his mind settles on his illustrious history and perhaps an acknowledgment of the stunning mystery that awaits him.

The other couple, clearly younger, is engrossed in each other. She has her back to the sun, her back and neck protected by a parasol. She faces the man directly; the man stands at a glancing angle. He cannot take her full on, perhaps he hasn't decided about her. or he's trying to get away or stay, he doesn't know. They are younger. Life is still to come. She asks for his attention. He accomodates.

But time is short. The afternoon is fleeting. A southerly wind picks up. The sun is dropping to an accute angle. Decisions must be made.

* * *

A copy of this painting, done 20 years ago, leans against the plastic garbage bins. The painting is badly damaged. The truth is, it was not cared for, an under appreciated heirloom left in a shed always with the intention of framing it. But never done. A painting of the painting would include a third couple, sitting off to one side, in an enclosed urban garden. The shed is to their left; the door closed, but not securely. We can see a broken lock, but not broken by vandals, simply a lock never closed. We presume that the spirits in the shed come and go as they please. We can also conclude that this couple, as right as they are for each other, are careless, with their possessions and perhaps each other.

Meanwhile, the man who painted the copy of Terrace-At-Sainte-Adresse has been dead for nearly 20 years. He once sat on his brick porch and labored over the painting by the hour, for years on end. Finally, when he finished it was his most prized work and he hung it over the mantle with great pride. Some people who came to his house, and who didn't know much about Art, assumed it was an original.

"Who did that?" they might ask and he would reply, "Max Monet." Then he would go on and tell exotic stories of women he'd fallen in love with, who urged him to paint this scene, just for them.....

No comments: