The paintings by De Kooning, Lily Pond, and Monet, Water Lilies, share the same subject matter of lilies while differing in the style in how they portray the subject. The Expressionist, de Kooning, creates a very abstract, unidentifiable version of the subject matter lilies, while expressing emotional movement and bright simple colors. The Impressionist, Monet, creates a very soft somewhat abstract but clearly identifiable painting that represents little movement and very comfortable colors. The paintings lacks in mean what would otherwise be incorporated in other forms of art, they thus create diversion from the concentration of narrative which had to be studied to get the deeper intended meaning. The oil on canvas paintings were created 34 years apart and they represent the concentration of light to create out the effects of paints at a particular time of the day. Their idea was an attempt to objectively record visual reality accurately in relation to transient effects of light and color.
The subject matter of the De Kooning’s painting Lily Pond is water lilies. The idea for this painting came to De Kooning while in a car. Stevens explains that “while he himself never learned to drive a car, he loved sitting in the passenger seat, studying the highway and glimpsing the passing landscapes” (Stevens, De Kooning 410). This glimpsing of the passing landscapes created the image for the Lily Pond painting as he traveled from his studio in New York to his home in Long Island. This painting is part of “what is sometimes called the highway series, large bold stroked landscapes” (Stevens, “Change Agent” 80). The painting is so abstract that without the help of the title, the viewer may never know the actual subject of the painting. Once the title is understood it allows the viewer to begin determining their interpretation of De Kooning’s quickly taken snapshot in his mind of the lily pond landscaping along the freeway. On the contrary, Monet’s piece is a conventional artistic work because it was an impressionist form of art that is based on actual scene of water lilies floating on water at his garden during some time of the day.
The perspective in which the subject matter is portrayed in Lily Pond places the viewer in a position where they feel like they are on a bridge over the water. The viewer, depending on their interpretation of the painting, gets a feeling of looking down upon the scene. The foreground is filled with the bright blue water. The white section of land appears pierced by some type of water inlet that divides the land on the right. The green, apparently wooded area appears in the background on the left which crashes into the burnt orange horizon and sky on the right. The lilies appear to come from the white and blue mixed area in the center of the painting surrounded by the triangle formed by the white land in the background. De Kooning used bright colors to depict the image of the lily during the day just like Monet’s water lilies.
The subject matter in Claude Monet’s painting Water Lilies is clear. The viewer can identify the lilies at first glance of the piece. Unlike the De Kooning version, it is clear that the purple flowering of the mature lilies is the subject of the painting. Monet’s drive to paint this subject came from the many hours spent in his water garden at his “home in Giverny, 52 miles from Paris” (Stuckey 11) France.
The perspective of the viewer in Monet’s painting compares with that of De Kooning’s. The viewer in the Water Lilies painting feels as if they are standing in the water or sitting in a boat looking out over the lily pads. The blue water littered with water lilies is in the foreground, while a piece of land protrudes out like a peninsula in the background. The peninsula in the background supports long grass bending their tips into the surrounding water. The perspectives are both non-typical paintings with water against light. The land included is typically in the foreground portraying an observer’s view while standing on the shore.
The subject matter in the two paintings may be the same but the style of the paintings portrayed differs. The style De Kooning exhibits in Lily Pond is abstract Expressionism represented by bold, wide multidirectional brushstrokes. The style is represented by the simplified vision of the landscape combined with the obviously distorted interpretation of water lilies. The distortion of forms and colors represent the paintings marriage to Expressionism. The broad brushstrokes and mixed colors in De Kooning’s style, makes the painting appear to have movement. The areas where the white mixes with the bright blues make the water appear to move. The area to the far left from an observer’s view point almost feels like the water is running back toward the body of water as if a wave is rushing back to where it just came from. The green which appears to represent a forest covered landscape seems to have leaves and branches moving on its right side. It possibly could be the beginning of fall according to the patches of green scattered across the burnt orange, these may be early leaves falling from the trees in the wind. All of these interpretations of the painting give the painting movement that creates strong emotion in the viewer. The bright limited colors of de Kooning’s palette also contribute to his Expressionistic style. The whole composition only uses four colors; blue to simulate the water, white appears to make up the land, green to create what appears to be landscape and burnt orange to generate what appears to be the fall sky. The use of only four colors helps to promote distortion of form, distortion of colors and reacts against excessive order in support of Expressionism.
The water Lily Pond painting which follows the Impressionist style is similar to Monet’s Water Lilies which also used the same concept. Impressionism style is well represented in water lilies. The topic of nature is represented by the Water Lilies just like the Lily Pond. The focus on the effects of shadow and the colors it creates is visible in the many shades of green used to represent the shadows of the water lilies. The use of visible brush strokes can be seen in the shadow lines, in the lilies themselves and throughout the piece. Monet uses the purple background with the green shadows and light colored lilies to create contrast. Finally, this was painted outdoors where most impressionism works were done.
Lily Pond offers the viewer a strong emotional movement while Water Lilies offers only slight movement created by the shadows in Monet’s impressionistic style. The shadows inform the viewer that there are only small ripples in the water. Other than that the setting, the painting portrays some form of calm. Monet’s Water Lilies seem to float almost motionless in the water. The grass from the bank does not move in any breeze and the shadows move only slightly to create a relaxed and calmness for its viewers. The colors used in Monet’s painting are soft. Purples, whites and pinks make up the soothing colors of the lilies. The green of the landscape and shadow create the only hint of stronger emotion by representing the darkness beneath the water, yet the darkness is brought back to peacefulness’ by the lilies gently floating above it. This sets a much easier tone for the viewer than the strong harsh color of Lily Pond.
Monet has further created an effect that the like colors are put together and they seem to fade into each other when one stands back to look at them in whole. The flowers at the bottom of the painting look bright and the water looks brighter which gives the impression that the painter did not want to convey any meaning in his piece of work. The calm setting of the still water, the shadows dancing slowly and evenly with the shimmer of the water’s surface and soft colors that blend into the landscape are all expected in the picture most would create in their mind. Meanwhile De Kooning’s mind created a piece that challenges most people’s mind to see the same subject matter. He uses extreme abstract style to create Lily Pond. The bold brushstrokes create great emotion. The brilliant colors force the viewer to spend time to interpret their version of what these colors represent. Though these paintings share the subject matter of water lilies, their styles make them completely different works of art. They represent the concentration of light to create out the effects of paints at a particular time of the day.