A nice image of Monet’s waterlilies, c. 1915, via Wikipedia Commons:
The feel of this image for me is not of tranquility and coolness, but of heat and melting. First there is the white flower echoing a fried egg; then there is, to the upper right, a cauldron of undifferentiated lilies over a low flame of green (made by the reflection of the tree upon the water), dribbling down a syrupy waterfall of blue into separation, differentiation, and multiplicity: a depiction of the Fall. The waterlilies move in a leisurely S to the Word–this is the Hegelian course of History (with a capital H)–and the creator’s signature on the outskirts of blue (at the lower left) reveals the name of their god. The creator, Monet, manifested to the lilies by his signature, is the final cause to which the lilies tend and turn toward, but do not touch.
And every garden needs a snake. I see one in the pink flowers, with two eyes, a mouth, and multiple oracular tongues, like the apostles at Pentecost, but of green fire. Its body veers left, and the snake has a message for you: Look at that white flower again–the one that is also a fried egg. Carpe diem. All flesh is grass.
So this painting is, for me, about time, change, and the ontological mystery. It is Heraclitus of Ephesus saying, “Nobody steps into the same Monet twice.”
This Monet also has me thinking of a work of David Hockney’s, “Man Running Towards a Bit of Blue” (1963), which I cannot find on the Internet, but which is a pencil and crayon drawing of a naked man running toward a square patch of blue (as the waterlilies are moving toward the blue patch with Monet’s signature).
Hockney likes this heading-into-blue theme, and I did readily find a different example–“A Bigger Splash” (1967):
And here’s a depiction, from the 17th century, of Heraclitus–presumably agonizing in prayer and thought over the nature of change and of the turning world:
Lastly, Monet’s painting has me thinking of Hinduism; of a busy surface and busy reflections on a basin of water that is, at bottom, still; of the simple and undifferentiated blue (Atman) birthing the lilies into a flaming green differentiation (Brahman) that languidly returns to blue, which is ultimately one. Quiet, the mind.
Image sources: Wikipedia.