Impressions of the Masters

“People discuss my art and pretend to understand as if it were necessary to understand, when it’s simply necessary to love.” -Claude Monet

I didn’t really gain an appretation for fine art until I was an adult, and even now I can’t claim to be any great authority on the subject.  I can’t hold intellectual discussions about the artist’s technique or the symbolism of a particular piece.   My basis for judging art is very subjective and personal: do I like or not?  Does it move me or not?

Sometimes this makes me seem quite uncultured.  For example, a friend of mine was appalled when she learned I was going to Paris but didn’t have any plans to see the Mona Lisa in the Louvre.  It’s shocking, I know, but I’m confessing it now: for being one of the most famous paintings in the world, the Mona Lisa doesn’t do much for me. That’s not meant as a criticism to Leonardo DaVinci, it’s just my own personal taste.

Instead, I’m much more intrigued by the D’Orsay than the Louvre.  I’m thrilled by the prospect of seeing Monet’s Impressions of a Sunrise, and Blue Dancers by Degas.

One of the things I’ve learned as a photographer is to seek out things that inspire you, no matter what the form.  I gain inspiration from artists, photographers, people, music, films, nature, and literature.   And it turns out that while I still have a great respect and admiration for the great masters such as DaVinci and Rafael, their work just doesn’t inspire to my romantic sensibilities as much as some other artists.  I freely admit, I like pretty things!  🙂

My favorite art museum that I’ve visited thus far is the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.  It’s such a beautiful building filled with centuries of art from all over the world.  …And best of all…they let you take pictures (just keep your flash off)!  So now when visiting the MFA I like to take my camera so I can quickly capture things that inspire and delight me, and I wanted to share a few of my discoveries.


© 2011 Gatsby Nouvel

Renoir’s Dance at the Bougival is one of my favorite paintings at the MFA.  I love the color and the movement of this piece, the flow of the woman’s skirt, and the flutter of the ribbons on her hat.  It’s almost like a candid photograph.  When taking portraits of individuals or couples, I try to also incorporate movement.  I feel more candid pictures better capture the essence of a person.

I didn't realize it at the time, but I think Renoir may have influenced this particular shot. What do you think?


One of Monet’s classic water lilies.  I loved the texture of the paint, which made me wonder, could I create the illusion of texture in a photograph?  Turns out you can!  By using layers and masking in post production, I’ve been able to add depth and textures to photos.

This was taken on a cold day in early March. Texture added a rugged grittiness that seemed to suit this deserted Nantucket pier.

Softness & Light:

Monet strikes again!  Hey, there’s a reason why I’m looking forward to visiting the Impressionist galleries in Paris, you know!  

I love the soft, misty quality of this painting.  It’s light and serene, and the softness alludes to the landscape without giving away every detail.  Thanks to Monet, I stopped being afraid of soft focus, and started to embrace it.

Martha's Vineyard. I chose a soft focus because I wanted the photo to have a dream-like quality. Standing on the cliffs that day, it felt so perfect it was almost surreal.

Flights of Whimsey: 

The inspiration here is not deep or earth-shattering.  I just really liked this woman’s hat!  Hats are awesome, and I really think they need to come back into vogue! Sometimes something needs to be nothing more than what it is to bring you joy.

So, dear blog readers, I’m interested to hear, is there anything particular that inspires you and helps get your creative juices flowing?


8 responses to “Impressions of the Masters

  • sartenada

    Did You visit in the museum of Claude Monet? The place is quite nearby Paris. It has beautiful garden. Some scenery is captured in his art works.

    Happy Monday!


    • Rachel

      I haven’t, and I won’t be able to on my trip next month either. I’m afraid Giverny closes in the winter months. But…that just means I’ll have to go back! 🙂 Have a great week!


  • Veliden

    These pictures you’ve shared are simply amazing and breathtaking. You’re an amazing photographer!

    I love them and I can’t wait to see more. Though I do agree about your opinion on the Mona Lisa, it doesn’t do much for me either. But we are all entitled to our own opinions on anything and everything. 🙂


  • dadispen

    I also agree with your thoughts on the Mona Lisa! It’s relieving to find someone who can spill out an unpopular opinion on an “Iconic” work of art…I didn’t dare say a thing when I was still in school though I really didn’t feel much for the Mona Lisa.


  • Delizie Delizie

    Wonderful pictures, I am French and the feeling is like going home at
    Musee d’Orsay!! Legerte’, calm beauty of the world, light mouvements captured..
    Really great ..I hope you will go soon to visit the Giverny Museum in
    I also share the same opinion about Mona Lisa, beautiful but cold..


    • Rachel

      Thank you! I’m so looking forward to visiting your country next month! And I can’t wait to visit Musee d’Orsay. I was disappointed to learn that Giverny will be closed when I’m there, but I suppose that just gives me another excuse to go back later! 🙂


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