One of my favorite Manet paintings, one I often showed in my lectures, is called The Monet Family in Their Garden. The painting depicts Claude Monet’s wife, Camille, red fan in hand, and their son Jean. They are relaxed, seated on the grass under a tree. Monet is off to the side, tending his geraniums in his garden he so dearly loved. A large watering can is a prominent feature. Roosters are crowing. A tiny baby chick is in a patch of light a few feet away from Camille’s shoes that peek out from under her white dress. Both mother and son are gazing in the same direction, causing the viewer to wonder what is arresting their eye.
Camille’s left hand is under her chin, a symbol of deep concentration, while Claude’s left hand is stretched across his kneecap, giving the impression his leg could be aching from his labor.
This painting is one of my favorites in the Met’s permanent collection.
In my book, The Postcard as Art: Bring the Museum Home, published in 1985, my epigraph is apt.
“Only the artists are on the right track, for it may be (that only) they can bring beauty into our lives, to give the world reason (without artists) is impossible.” —Georges Clemenceau, the great World War I statesman and close friend of Claude Monet
I featured this postcard in my book with the knowledge of the deep connection between these two artists, Manet and Degas. On each page I quote an artist, and on this page I used Degas’ words upon Manet’s death: “He was greater than we thought.”
Opposite the postcard of this garden painting, after Degas’ quotation, I wrote: