“For me, the subject is of secondary importance: I want to convey what is alive between me and the subject.”
Most of us come to know painters through their canvases, as well as the stories and emotions shown on them. It seems as the most obvious way to notice the obsessions, fears, anxieties, and joy that led them to capture their personal universe within the frame. Each brushstroke is charged with a shred of his soul.
The same happens with a writer, filmmaker, or any other artist expressing themselves through symbols and images. It’s only through these representations that we are able to discover the human behind the works of art.
When we have the chance to discover more about the biographical aspect of the artist, to read or listen to them, explaining their works in their own words, we are able to experience their genius in a different way, because we learn about their motivations, as well as their obstacles and insecurities. We’re presented with the person behind the wonder of the art.
Three thousand personal letters penned by Claude Monet have served as a blueprint of the French impressionist’s life. Documentarian Phil Grabsky has gone deep into the writings of the painter to present the passions, obsessions, and reflections of a man who experienced art in an intense manner.
I, Claude Monet came to be through the prolific correspondence that presented a life of contrasts. Monet was devoted to his artistic endeavors, yet tormented by moments of despair, triggered by loss of loved ones as well as economic insolvency. Still, he seemed to channel this turmoil into his creations and life.
Through this work we become witnesses to the painter’s darkest moments of depression, as well as his euphoric instances of painting and vision. His travels to cities like Paris, Venice, and London are origin stories to some of his most famous pieces. Yet it’s his garden in Giverny that appears to be his favorite spot.
This documentary gives us the opportunity to observe the actual places where Monet wrote these letters and attempted to recreate them on the canvas. One of these magical spots is “The Bridge Over a Pond of Water Lilies”.
The film also takes the audience to witness the situation of France at the turn of the twentieth century, as it braced itself for one of the most violent acts of war: the First World War. On this event, Monet wrote, “Summer 1914. Panic has spread for the war. If those savages insist on killing me they’ll have to do so in the presence of my paintings, next to my life’s work.” Though cataracts may rendered him almost completely blind, Monet never stopped painting. It was during this period when he completed his renowned series of water lilies. This documentary shows the interior psyche of the artist who showed the beauty in the fleeting.
“I've done what I could as a painter and that seems to me to be sufficient. I don't want to be compared to the great masters of the past, and my painting is open to criticism; that's enough.” Claude Monet