A Certain Certainty by Daisy Hickman

I am honored today to have as my guest, Daisy Hickman, author of Always Returning: The Wisdom of Place (read my review here)Daisy and I share a love of great art, both in painted and written form. Today Daisy writes about one of our favorite artists, Claude Monet, as she offers the history of a print she recently acquired as well as some of Monet's own words with us.And now I give you Daisy and her beautiful post.

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A Certain Certainty

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Last year via the Art Institute of Chicago’s online information, I stumbled across a winter landscape that I loved immediately. I should have known it was a Monet. Drawn to Claude’s magnetic work for as long as I recall—Monet and the other great impressionists—I’m pretty sure I must have been around during this era of controversial artistic endeavor. In a former lifetime, you know!

“People discuss my art and pretend to understand as if it were necessary to understand, when it's simply necessary to love.” ~ Monet

Long story short, I bought the inexpensive print, had it framed, and find myself drawn to it a great deal. Never tiring of it, but always calmed and inspired by its quiet eloquence.

The original 1895 oil on canvas painting is in the Art Institute of Chicago – a gift of Bruce Borland – and though I’ve never seen it, I’m content to imagine its comforting presence.

  • But how did this wonderful painting come to be? What was Claude thinking as he created it?

Monet traveled to Norway in 1895: a trip that evolved into a difficult two-month campaign because of the harsh, winter conditions. Nonetheless, the ambitious painter captured 29 Norwegian scenes during this brief period. Reportedly, there were at least six views of Sandvika, a village whose iron bridge may have reminded Monet of the Japanese bridge at his home in Giverny.

One of these views—inscribed, lower left: Claude Monet 95—is simply called Sandvika, Norway, 1895.

Stunning in its simplicity, the eye is immediately drawn to the touch of red – the various shades of blue, lavender, and charcoal. Clearly, it is a quiet winter day, yet, the distinguished artist managed to capture something more. This “something more” is what I ponder and explore when I gaze at this print – often before falling asleep at night.

Here is what I have to so far: the bridge is key, don’t you think? Who will cross it next, and why? Almost as if it’s waiting for someone to emerge from a warm house, maybe not until spring, maybe before. And the trees, bare and somewhat lifeless, yet also patiently in waiting. I should point out, though most of you already know, that Monet painted outside. This painting was no exception.

From the Art Institute of Chicago website: “Although he was somewhat perturbed by the interest taken in him by local painters, he probably added to his celebrity by stubbornly insisting on working outdoors in the poorest of conditions. He wrote to a friend in Paris: ‘You would have laughed if you could have seen me completely white, with icicles hanging from my beard like stalactites.’”

“It's on the strength of observation and reflection that one finds a way. So we must dig and delve unceasingly.”  - Monet

I agree with him here: We must dig and delve unceasingly. So this painting, as an inspiring focal point, will continue to be a welcome source of observation and reflection for me. There is a certain certainty about it, don’t you think? The unspoken promise of days to come. Warmer days, that is. But there is an air—an impression—of quiet contentment, as well. Remembering to value each breath, despite external conditions, comes to mind. Though winter, the painting is still bursting with life.

I’ve always felt that, as a writer, I am also an Impressionist. This is where I am most at home – when I’m capturing something more than black and white facts. In looking for that hidden, but enduring pattern, for an insightful observation that would be easily overlooked, for me, this gets us closer to the reality of our brief lives than the swirling sea of details that are entirely fleeting.

But, finally, we also can see in this painting the uncertain nature of life. Hidden lives under each white roof. Beginnings and endings alike. A sky that reveals little.

Monet lived from 1840-1926, yet, his endearing spirit is here with us now, and perhaps that is all we can really know about life. Everything changes, yet, nothing changes. Finding peace within paradox must be why I love this painting. Looking closely, I see that it’s all there. Life in subtle shades; life in constant flux; life being transformed moment by moment. Unseen, yet, felt.

Bravo, Monet. You captured my heart. ~

  • Thank you, Sherrey, for this lovely opportunity to share these thoughts on your inspiring blog. You are such a warm and generous friend. In the spirit of Monet, merci!
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More about Daisy Hickman

D.A. (Daisy) Hickman is a poet, an author, and the 2010 founder of SunnyRoomStudio--a creative, sunny space for kindred spirits. Hickman holds a master's degree in sociology from Iowa State University, and earned her bachelor's degree at Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri. A member of the Academy of American Poets and the South Dakota State Poetry Society, Hickman is at work on her first poetry collection and on a memoir.

Where the Heart Resides: Timeless Wisdom of the American Prairie was published in 1999 by William Morrow (Eagle Brook imprint. In 2014, Always Returning: The Wisdom of Place, the second edition of Where the Heart Resides, a 15th Anniversary Edition, was published by Capture Morning Press.