Monet Paints a Day
written by Julie Danneberg; illustrated by Caitlin Heimerl
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher
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As Julie Danneberg states in the Author's Note, the group of French painters known as the Impressionists broke with the tradition of painting to inspire or teach. This group wanted to paint ordinary scenes and capture the feeling of what they saw instead of the exact details. One of those Impressionists, Claude Monet, is featured in Monet Paints a Day as he tries to capture the feeling of standing underneath a French coastal stone arch known as the Manneporte. Using the Hotel Blanquet as his base, Monet strikes out each day at a particular time to capture the light of that time of day. As he departs the hotel, a line of children, rewarded with candy and coins, follows with his canvases while Monet carries his paint box and palette. This group walks carefully down a zigzag cliff path and across a rocky beach. Monet finds his spot and the children scatter so as to not draw his wrath which can quickly come. Poor lighting, bad weather, and most of all frustration with his painting would cause these tantrums. Monet has several canvases with him so he could capture the light from different times of the day. When a period of time had passed, he would switch to a different canvas to match the time, weather, and light. He would work between 7 and 15 minutes on a particular canvas before changing. Monet would use bright colors and quick brushstrokes as he worked on a scene. As he is working on this day, rumbling waves send a warning to him. In his pursuit to capture the light, he ignores the noise which will unleash a surprise on him. An inaccurate information sheet in the hotel has caused Monet to have the wrong time for the high tide and his art supplies, excepting his palette, are washed away. Instead of being frustrated, Monet admires nature's strength and vows to be back the next day.
I really like how Monet Paints a Day shows the intensity and focus of an artist. Whether writers, painters, musicians, or other artists, I think there has to be a certain amount, or obsession, for these people to perfect their craft. This obsession can come with a price, and Julie Danneberg doesn't hesitate to show that Monet was indeed human. Caitlin Heimerl's watercolor art is an excellent introduction to Impressionism. Find your art teacher and recommend this book. It would also be a nice addition to your biography picture book collection. The two sections in the back matter, the Author's Note and Monet's Painting Techniques, are great sources for more information about Claude Monet.