Mom and Monet

Claude Monet was the driving force for Impressionist painting in the 1800s, and a master at capturing emotions in water and shadow.

Cottage by Elle Smith

His rapid brush strokes apprehended color and light, with little emphasis on exactness. Monet painted the same scenes of flora as many as 200 times, his brush serving as a “time-lapse camera.”

Four Loons in the Morning by Elle Smith

Monet’s work contrasted with the photographic method of most painters, many of whom trashed his technique as “unsophisticated.” When an art reviewer used the term “impressionism” to disparage his style, Monet and his “radical” painting contemporaries appropriated this term to describe their new painting method. They became Impressionists.

Lone Deer by Elle Smith

The French public soon embraced Monet’s “perspective before nature” philosophy, and in the 1960s…my mother did too.

As a single mom, she had little time to attend college art classes, except occasionally. But in our home, Europe’s great painters crowded spare rooms and the bathroom—where she seized moments to study Monet and his technique without interruption.

Lilacs by Elle Smith

Mom’s art talent—hard-won while raising two children and working full time—found a home with artists wherever she lived. Monet “followed” Mom from Oregon to Alaska, and at 92, her iPad icons and passwords still show up as “Monet” this, or “Monet” that.

For several years, Mom braved icy sidewalks to prepare a room at the Chugiak Senior Center and teach students her brand of art. Her Monet-esque style inspired painting wannabes (teenagers to seniors) to bloom in their own creative ways.

Mom was in her late 80s when colors and contours began fading. Like Claude Monet, she suffered from failing eyesight too.

None of Mom’s artwork will receive the acclaim of a Monet (his Water Lilies painting sold at Christies for $84.7 million). But like Monet, her legacy will live on through landscapes, flowers, and pastoral scenes. Much of my mother’s work hangs in the homes of her grandchildren already.

Upon the canvas of our hearts Mom’s brushstrokes have inspired us—with a little help from Monet.

Claude died in 1926, the same year that my mother was born, and his last 30 years were consumed with solitude, and planting and painting water lilies at his garden home in France. His unrealized quest for fulfillment is captured in his words: “I am following Nature without being able to grasp her.”

This is where my mother and Monet ply their brushes differently.

During Mom’s lonely season she chose to follow the Master of Creation—Jesus Christ. She wrenched her life from a heritage of bitterness, and chose the path less traveled.

Mom’s decision to follow Jesus dates back 50 years, and her personal choices adorn a living canvas of children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. By allowing God to critique her work, Mom has altered the destiny of her family—from patterns of addictions and dysfunction to a rainbow palette full of laughter and love.

Babies, toddlers, teens, and adults gather at her bedside in a room decorated with landscapes she can barely see. We come for hugs—and this is no misty reflection. Every hug is real.

“May our sons flourish in their youth like well-nurtured plants. May our daughters be like graceful pillars, carved to beautify a palace.” (Psa. 144:12)

“O LORD, I will honor and praise your name, for you are my God. You do such wonderful things! You planned them long ago, and now you have accomplished them. (Isa. 25:1)


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