Impressions of a Day

  • Photography Megha Kapoor
  • Featuring excerpts from 'Light: With Monet at Giverny', by Eva Figes

Eva Figes (1932 - 2012), was an English author who wrote several novels, studies of feminism, essays and vivid memoirs relating to her Berlin childhood and later experience as a Jewish refugee from Hitler’s Germany. Her short novel Light is a study of a day in the life of impressionist master Claude Monet composed from a variety of perspectives as well as the artists own. She leads us gently and draws us into Monet’s world and his beloved garden at Giverny, painting a shimmering picture of light, shape and emotions in a day that is as long as a story. We feel the heat of the summer’s day, the lethargy and quiet it induces and the garden that is never too far away from the narrative. INPRINT takes a pictorial stroll through Le Clos Normand, with Figes’ Light to guide us.

Impressions of a Day
Impressions of a Day

The water lilies were fully open now, and the shadows had lost their depth. This was the light he had been waiting for, and he opened his box. The sun rose higher behind the willow tree, diminishing its reflected shadow in the water, and with it the cool expanse of blueish tones which had made the world as deep as it was high, blue and calm, with the limpid clarity of morning, and smooth as glass. The lily pond had begun to look shallow now, little more than a marshy swamp, with roots clearly visible under the water. There was more yellow in the light now, though the blueish tinge had not entirely gone from the shadowed parts of the water, dark with undergrowth, and the clear blue of reflected sky was also still visible, though only in small and broken fragments. But apart from the change in the colour of all things, he was conscious of a growing edge to things, a particularity of surfaces which made him change his technique and apply his colour impasto with a thick base of white. The full light had brought out the fleshiness of leaves and plants, their multifarious edges. The smooth surface of the water heavy with blooms and dark glossy pads.

Impressions of a Day

Tomorrow he would go back to the river and make a new beginning. Just as each day is a new beginning, he thought, stopping to look at his rosebush now incandescent in the afternoon light, its blooms about to dissolve into the surrounding atmosphere, to melt into air as he had seen stonework do. He touched a petal on the burning bush and thought of the extraordinary theory of atoms, and how it was not unlike what he could see for himself: each day light playing, defining and transforming what would otherwise be merely grey amorphous matter, whether leaf, water or rock. As though with each dawn the miracle of creation was recreated with the coming of first light. Beginning with the calm blues and greys he would find on the river.

Impressions of a Day
Impressions of a Day

Down by the lily pond Claude also saw the sky turn rose and gold, taking colour from the trees, making the thicket of bamboo darker, and more dense. A couple of swallows dipped and swung, as though for the joy of it, finding their freedom in the space above and around him. The air was soft now, slightly misty, everything, leaves, fences, the house, touched with gold. The four poplar trees across his horizon had turned to pillars of flame, as though the world were burning in a silent conflagration, reflected in the glowing sky. The element of fire had taken hold, he thought, but tomorrow it will begin all over again, I will find a world cool with blue and grey, damped down with dew, and the show will play through once more. I have nothing to fear, he thought, in the time left. This is enough, more than enough, it will finish with me long before I have finished with it.

Impressions of a Day

The sky was still dark when he opened his eyes and saw it through the uncurtained window. He was upright within seconds, out of bed and had opened the window to study the signs. It looked good to him, the dark just beginning to fade slightly, midnight blueblack growing grey and misty, through which he could make out the last light of a dying star. It looked good to him, a calm pre-dawn hush without a breath of wind, and not a shadow of cloud in the high clear sky. He took a deep breath of air, heavy with night scents and dew on earth and foliage. His appetite for the day thoroughly aroused, his elated mood turned to energy, and he was into his dressing room, into the cold bath which set his skin tingling, humming an unknown tune under his breath.