Abstract Critical

Leo Steinberg on Monet

“And it is wonderful to look for an hour or so at a time, for you can do things to it with your eyes – tip it into a horizontal plane, then let it snap back into an upright sheet; gaze along placid surfaces, then look through them, five fathoms deep. Search opaque waters for diaphanous shrubs, and find a light source at its destination. You can invert the picture or yourself at will, lie cheek to cheek with the horizon, rise on a falling cloud, or drift with lily leaves over a sunken sky. And yet this is no daydream, every inch is true, so that one looks and stares with a sense of discovery.”

Leo Steinberg on Monet’s Water Lilies, first published in Arts, February 1956, collected in Other Criteria: Confrontations with Twentieth-Century Art, University of Chicago Press, 2007