In Korean culture, poppies are associated with the beauty of Yang Guifei of the Tang Dynasty, who shares the same name. But in Western culture, poppies are viewed as the symbol of sleep, peace and death, and after the first World War, poppies became the symbol of mourning for those who were sacrificed in the war. But to French Impressionist painter Claude Monet, poppies were the flowers that shared his happiest moments as well as the object for his famous paintings.
At the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874, Monet entered two landscape paintings. One of them was titled “Impression, Sunrise,” which became the origin of the word Impressionism. The other was a painting of a poppy field in early summer, the very one that is shown here. It is a painting of a provincial village named Argenteuil, 12 kilometers from Paris. Monet, who had left France in 1871 to live in London to escape from the Franco-Prussian War, settled in the small village and lived until 1878. He completed various paintings that represented Impressionism.
The upper part of the painting shows a sky filled with white clouds while the bottom part shows a field covered with red poppies. The woman with a parasol and a child are the painter’s wife, Camille, and his son, Jean. They are also depicted in the hill far away. The borders of the horizon are blurred and the details of the people are left omitted. The poppies are simply a smattering of dots across the canvas, which would have appeared to people at that time as unfinished. Monet had to endure insults at that time, but the painting was an innovative one, prelude of abstract art.
Monet’s time in Argenteuil was the happiest time of his personal life and the epitome of artistic achievement, as he was able to focus on painting backed by the support of Paul Durand-Ruel. He had a beloved wife and a son, and in 1876 he had a second son, whom he named Michel. But happiness was brief, as he lost his wife to uterine cancer in 1879. She was just 32 years old. Monet’s wife died early, perhaps similar to the symbol of poppies or the great beauty of China.