Discovering Monet’s Garden With Lil’ Sprouts
For Lil’ Sprouts, Claude Monet’s paintings– with the help of Linnea In Monet’s Garden— are an excellent entry point to the world of art. Unpopular in his own time for his many unusual ideas about art, Monet loved being out in the garden and in the full embrace of fresh air and sun. His paintings are full of shapes, colors, and textures that encourage the energetic, inquisitive perspective that children often take in their approach to nature. As an Impressionist, Monet achieved these paintings in short periods of time, and cherished a particular quality of daylight. For kids who may not have the time (or attention span) to commit to long, arduous artistic endeavors, Monet offers a lesson in what beauty can be captured in a short period time.
In the context of museums and the art world, however, Monet’s paintings can easily feel clinical and alienating to kids. Christina Björk and Lena Anderson’s classic children’s book Linnea in Monet’s Garden brings children into Monet’s world through the eyes of a peer. In her straw sunhat and unassuming Mary Jane shoes, Linnea guides readers through all the dimensions of Monet’s world, tracing his work back from the walls of the museum and into his lush garden in Giverny. The pages emulate a scrapbook, with handwritten notes worked in along the side, which lends each page a sense of discovery.
As Björk and Anderson highlight, there are many aspects of Monet’s paintings that accommodate the curiousity of children. Though his paintings often feature calm, scenic subjects, Monet manages to evoke the loudness of childhood with his exuberant colors and textures. As Linnea nears one of his paintings, she notices how the figure of the water lilies devolves into swatches of paint, with each bristle clearly defined. As she walks away again, the “blobs and blotches” once again assemble to form the famous flowers. It’s a lesson in perspective that embraces the natural energy of kids moving about a space.
Monet’s physical garden likewise captures the intensity that kids often showcase, as it celebrates the varied character of flowers with many planted rows organized by color. At a distance, the rows appear as a uniform shade, but nearing them the many different varieties reveal themselves (the blue row, for example, is populated by flax flowers, delphiniums, and bluebells). Each vista presents a new view entirely, mirroring the way in which Monet’s paintings should be viewed.
This month we conclude GC’s theme of The Artist’s Garden, but Spring is only just beginning, and the promise of warm summer days is not far off. Encourage Lil’ Sprouts to emulate Monet by drawing what they see, taking photos, or writing down impressions of the garden during the afternoon for half an hour. Have them consider objects from near and far, and encourage them not to be too pre-occupied in perfectly-emulating what they see. Though Monet sought only to capture a certain fleeting moment in time, his paintings have been enjoyed across generations for a reason.