Seeing Deeply: Students View Monet Exhibition

The inaugural Mount Madonna School Art History with Studio class visited the de Young Museum in San Francisco on Tuesday to view the largest collection of Claude Monet’s late paintings ever assembled. The exhibit, Monet: The Late Years, featured twenty of the artist’s water lily paintings, which are some of his most famous works. Sixty paintings assembled from all over the world also showcased Monet’s increasingly experimental works completed towards the end of his life, many of which he painted while suffering from near-blindness due to cataracts.

“It was cool to see what these paintings looked like in real life, because photographs do not do them justice,” said junior Maverick Bettencourt. “They are so much bigger than I expected, and the colors when he was going blind were so different.”

“I was amazed by all the layers of paint, and how we were able to see Monet’s process when we saw the real paintings” commented classmate Braeden Will.

“It was really easy to appreciate those paintings when we tried the techniques first and knew how hard it was,” added classmate Paola Jacobs.”

Studio art teacher Erika Rosendale (’05) was along to lend the students her expertise, and said she could see Monet in the paintings and “couldn’t believe what he was doing with his paints.”

“I had no idea how special this exhibition was until we saw it,” shared senior Kaili Sullens. “I did not know that the paintings came from all over the place and this was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see them all together.”

Director of Upper School Shannon Kelly (’92) encouraged the development of this course to offer students interested in the visual arts an outlet and option to learn more on the subject. The course began by introducing a vocabulary to critique and describe art, then students studied different cultures and historic phases of art study while practicing sample techniques from each.

When teacher and course developer Lisa Catterall saw the opportunity to view this unprecedented collection of Monet’s work at the same time the class was becoming interested in plein air (outdoor) painting this spring, she seized the opportunity to go deep in the Impressionism unit. The students completed multiple studies as they worked-up to producing a canvas using the impasto technique with the colors and ideals of the impressionists, and the beautiful MMS campus in full bloom as inspiration.

“Studying and understanding visual works of art can give students an avenue to look at everything more deeply,” said Catterall. “Once you learn to see a thing in full depth, in the context of history, society, techniques, philosophies, economics, and emotional resonance, you can never go back to seeing that thing from a shallow perspective. For me, that was the call to create this learning opportunity for my students.”

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Nestled among the redwoods on 355 acres, Mount Madonna School (MMS) is a community of learners dedicated to creative, intellectual, and ethical growth. MMS supports its students in becoming caring, self-aware, discerning and articulate individuals; and believe a fulfilling life includes personal accomplishments, meaningful relationships and service to society. The CAIS and WASC accredited program emphasizes academic excellence, creative self-expression and positive character development. Located on Summit Road between Gilroy and Watsonville. Founded in 1979.