A symbol of hope and defiance -Saule pleureur by Monet
From 1914 Monet had been working on an ambitious project that came to be known as his Grandes décorations. On canvases five feet high and more than six-and-a-half feet wide, the artist reproduced the ephemeral reflections in his lily pond. By early 1918, eight canvases had been completed; four more were nearly finished.
Soon, however, the artist changed course and began a separate group of works: a series of Weeping Willow paintings, including Saule pleureur. In these canvases, says Jordan, ‘Monet continued his life-long meditation on the effects of light and atmosphere’. But the weeping willow carried connotations of sorrow, and this series has been seen as a lamentation on the state of the world.
As he began the Weeping Willows, the First World War had reached its final, climactic year. Monet’s younger son Michel and stepson Jean-Pierre Hoschedé had been sent to the front early in the conflict, and although the artist was too old to fight himself, he felt a deep need to contribute to the war effort. Like Matisse, who had tried to enlist but had been rejected due to his age, Monet took refuge in his work.
‘It is the best way not to think too much about the sadness of the present,’ Monet wrote in December 1914. Although, he added, ‘I should be a bit ashamed to think about little investigations into forms and colours while so many people suffer and die for us.’ Monet waged his own battle in his studio, seeking to create art that affirmed both nature’s immutable beauty and human endurance in the face of violence.