27 February 2019
During the last ten years or so of his life, the aging Monet was painting huge canvases of clouds, water-lilies and light. An opportunity was given to display these huge canvases for the benefit of the French nation.
In his biography, ‘Mad Enchantment’, Ross King writes very fully about the difficulties which Monet endured during these years – bereavement, the disruption of the Great War, the deterioration in his eyesight, frequent loss of confidence in the worth of his achievement.
Towards the end of the project and his life, he decided not to let these final paintings be displayed in his lifetime. And, in fact, never completed a tiny corner of one of them before the day of his death.
Interestingly, this unfinished painting is entitled, ‘The Setting Sun’. King says two things about it. Firstly, he thinks that Monet ‘wished to emphasise the provisional and incomplete nature of his efforts’.
Secondly, and more convincingly, he says that perhaps ‘he simply could not bear to bring his labours to an end, and to let the sun finally set on his Grande Decoration’. What unfinished intimations will be leave behind in our efforts to defy mortality and the inevitability of our last day?