Was lucky enough to get to a Monet exhibition of Rouen Cathedral which was travelling around at Rouen Musee de Beaux Arts –
Rouen is not a large or seemingly terribly imposing cathedral – it has none of the vast Romanesque spell of faery world of endless beauty and play of Chartres – It has been ravaged by the 2nd World War. Most of the stained glass is modern or donated, or just plain glass. But walking around the church there is a mistiness and it has a certain grey mysteriousness.
“I care not for the trials of the flesh” says an agonised Joan of Arc in her chapel. Here I am surrounded by colour in the exhibition. Monet has captured some of that mistiness and a human pain of an intimate knowledge. The facades shimmer and seems to be made of light not jewels in any way.
Monet “Etude pour portal vu de face” – scumbling muted greens browns and blues – light chocolately and never muddy – lines of colour sketched with a grave attention to freedom, a graceful (exclusion/exision) of all unnecessary lines & details. Rouen’s elaborate spires – as in his freehand sketches also shown, shiver, waver but like flames always decisively towards the heavens.
“Effet de Soleil Fin de Jounee” – finish of the afternoon? The west front is clad in a soft
apricot mantle, clear cobalt blue resting in the hollows of “our Lady’s” form. In the square the blue shadows deepen at the bottom of the painting. While the top of the portal blazes with yellow lights which reflects itself – over and above.
“le portail” – fine blue day, Plein Soliel his most famous shimmers – as I had long suspected – although not one soul shadows the sunshine. Are they all alseep at lunch? While the sun rides high? except the clock, tinged with red spot blood colour, ticks on to tell the time. The effect of the sun pales the cathedral rather than reflects the long yellow rays – which shine at the either side of each day,
“Fin Apres midi” Apricot & pale blue hues cream & honey “the late after noon” fires embers of yellow sunlight glowing in the portals are dying into ashes – only the door seems to hold a palpitating heart and the clock swathed in blue with a yellow centre – keeps a flowery counsel.
Light Blue-green sky le portail “Brouillard Martinal” sea of blue & green – the fine boned face of the portal is graced with a white light and some yellow/sunlight, tinged with red/orange climbs some of the towers. Strokes of freely dashed paint like elegant handwriting. Pale patch of sky.
“Effet du Matin” golden green shadows pale reddish face – blue spires rise coldly awakening faint flushed the sky. fingers of sunlight barely touching barely transmitting their warmth
“le portail et la tour d’Albane” temps gris captures much of the mistiness of Rouen which
rises swirling into the air – surprising the traveller myself, who expected this from a surely more imposing looking building. Not so – many ghosts throughout time live their spirit life peacefully in Rouen cathedral
“la cour d’Albane Apres-midi” wonderful blue sky. The houses are awake it the sunlight – all the colours are dark blue, pale mauve, gold, green, hues of red & yellows all dancing in their outlines of blue – Beside the wall of the church a jumble of buildings with light-jewels for casements – a reddish brown passageway burns – Nobody is there. Also not on a grey day. 16 paintings in all. Have no more time –
Towers of light, of glowing embers, of muted sculpted grey – sketched in faces – in all kinds of weather & time & the clock strikes on…