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|From the exhibition theme The Series|
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Japanese landscape prints were often issued in series — such as views of the provinces, famous views around Japan’s major cities and of Mount Fuji. The Japanese people revered Mount Fuji as a sacred site of deep spiritual significance.
Edo did not experience the atmospheric pollution of today’s Tokyo and the mountain was clearly visible from many parts of the capital, as can be seen in Hokusai’s two series, Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji, and his three-volume illustrated book, One Hundred Views of Mount Fuji. Both series met with popular acclaim. His choice of 'thirty-six' and 'one hundred' views had associations with the classical Japanese anthologies of poems by thirty-six and one hundred poets.
The idea of devoting a series to a single motif such as Mount Fuji — presenting different aspects according to the season, the weather, the time of day and the artist’s viewpoint — may have been an inspiration for Monet’s series, as can be seen in his paintings of poplars, haystacks and his waterlily pool.
Monet was not interested in painting nature in a descriptive manner, he said that he wanted to be true to his ‘sensation of nature’, that is, to what he perceived in nature. After nearly 30 years of painting in the open air, he had become extraordinarily sensitive to the fact that, when light changed, his whole perception of a landscape changed.
Monet represented different light effects by applying countless strokes of varied colours. A change of light would require him to change his colour scheme. He developed the practice of stopping work on a painting when light changed, and resuming only when that effect of light had returned. This led him to paint multiple versions of simple motifs in the meadows near his home — he produced 30 paintings of haystacks from 1888 to1891, and 19 of poplars in 1892.Monet was probably influenced by Japanese artists’ practice of producing several views; most notably in Hokusai’s celebrated Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji (of which Monet owned nine prints), and his Hundred Views of Mount Fuji (also in Monet’s collection). Hokusai explored the mountain’s continually changing relationship to its surroundings and showed how changes of light transformed its pure geometry. Similarly, Monet depicted the relationships between haystacks, hills and trees, and the way the passage of light through the day and through the seasons changed the simple geometry of the haystacks.