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Reflections on Giverny

Kristin Krimmel (standing) and Susan Falk sketch during a stop on their journey around northern France last September; below: Krimmel
Kristin Krimmel (standing) and Susan Falk sketch during a stop on their journey around northern France last September; below: Krimmel's Giverny - Red flowers overhang the lily pond; Detail of an oil on canvas by Falk.
— image credit: submitted photo

Sure, it may get all the press, but Paris in the springtime has nothing on autumn in the French countryside.

It’s a fact a pair of Fort Gallery artists rediscovered last September as they travelled through northern France, delighting in the region’s charms during a two-week “journey of artistic renewal and  exploration.”

In that time, Langley’s Susan Falk and Maple Ridge’s Kristin Krimmel visited the haunts of the impressionists where they lived and painted — Rouen, Giverny, Le Havre, Etretat, Amiens, Pontoise and, of course, Paris.

It was a journey of both discovery and immense creativity for the women, who each pledged to create fresh new works of art on a daily basis.

“We were both very determined to do a painting a day, no matter the weather. And paint, we did,” said Falk.

The result is The French Collection, an exhibit of paintings which opens at the Fort Gallery in Fort Langley on May 7, and promises to take visitors on a virtual journey of Giverny, where famed French impressionist Claude Monet lived and painted his celebrated garden of waterlilies

While in France, the artists also saw modern works by the post-impressionists, including a three-floor exhibition in Paris, at the Grand Palais, of George Braque’s paintings, as well as a major contemporary exhibition, Réalités Nouvelles — comprised of only current abstract work — in Vincennes, a suburb of Paris.

Canadians seldom get to see original impressionist works in our own country, said Krimmel. And photo illustrations in fine art books don’t convey the size, true colours, tactile sense nor the heart of the works.

“That’s why it’s essential to see the real thing, to understand it,” the artist added.

“On this trip, we spent an average of six hours a day in museums and galleries and were privileged to see complete exhibitions of Pissaro, Braque, Eugene Boudin, Monet, plus many themed shows, with works by the most influential Impressionist painters of their era,” said Krimmel.
“We came back with a wealth of documentation and imagery to work from.”

For The French Collection, Falk and Krimmel each concentrated on Monet’s gardens at Giverny, where the spirit of the artist’s time period and his home life are preserved.

Both artists have been strongly influenced by the early 20th century painters in their own works.

“There are a number of painters that I have greatly admired throughout my painting career such a Emily Carr, Tom Thompson and Pierre Bonnard to name a few,” said Falk.

“But Claude Monet always captures my heart whenever I stand in front of one of his paintings.

“So it is no wonder to me that I chose to paint his incredible ponds and all the mystery that they entail.

“What a thrill for my own eyes to be able to search and explore those mysterious dark waters in shade and then watch the light transition in all colours reflected.”

“I could feel the presence of Monet and absorb the atmosphere where he worked amidst his family and painter friends,” said Krimmel.

“In the magnificent gardens and waterways there is a tremendous feeling of exhilaration at the lush complexity of the plant forms.

“The shimmering shadows of the big trees and climbing roses dance on the gravel walkways, just as they did 100 years before.

“The Norman skies are full of big, fast-moving cumulus clouds. They constantly change the reflections on the lily pond and the connecting streams that Monet designed and built. The magical effect of receding lilies and advancing clouds confound the sense of perspective – without a single straight line to describe it.

“That was the genius of Monet’s imagery.”

It was so special, the artists reorganized their itinerary to go back a second full day.

“Back home in my studio, when I looked at all my reference photos, it was Giverny that drew me to reconnect with my paint brush, to recreate the images and the experience that had so affected me.”

The French Collection will be on display at the Fort Gallery, 9048 Glover Rd., from May 7 to May 25.

The gallery is open from noon to 5 p.m. each Wednesday to Sunday.

Call 604-888-7411for more information.

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