Last night, Ross King spoke to a sold out crowd in downtown Vancouver during the Annual Heller Lectures. I was able to get tickets over a month ago. This award winning author spoke for two hours about the Impressionist painter Claude Monet (1940 – 1926). Ross King was promoting his most recent book “Mad Enchantment” as well as promoting the current Vancouver Art Gallery show: Claude Monet’s Secret Garden.

I was able to get through the first 4 chapters of this book before sitting down for this talk. It focuses on the second half of Monet’s art career.

When I arrived at the talk around 5:30pm, I witnessed the line up to the Vancouver Art Gallery wrap around the building – almost 400 people! I started lining up assuming it was for the talk, but it was actually just to see the current exhibit of Monet’s paintings! It wasn’t even opening day! I am always fascinated the crowds an art titan can draw compared to getting people to a living artist show (realizing that history is an important factor of whose work we want to see). But it makes me wonder if they are personally drawn to the artwork or if they are told by the history books that they should expect to be drawn to the artwork.

Myself having studied engineering and not art history, I am enjoying immersing myself in the stories and connecting with the artists; I find their struggles and adventures are relate-able. I listened to the first 4 chapters of Ross King’s book on audio while painting on Sunday in anticipation to this lecture.

Ross King talk started the evening by saying ignore what we read in his book “The Final Judgment of Paris”. This has been the only other book I had read! In this book Monet is the quintessential starving artist in the first half of his art career. In King’s latest book Monet has now made a name for himself, the richest people in the US are collecting his work and he has enough income to purchase the garden at Giverny and construct a pond where he adds his own flora that will become the subject of his lily paintings.


Ross King speaking at the Annual Heller Lecture at the Vancouver Art Gallery

Ross King speaking at the Annual Heller Lecture at the Vancouver Art Gallery. One of his intro slides commenting that philosopher Proust claimed Monet to be “The Great Anti Depressant”


I did not think twice about Ross King’s title of the book Mad Enchantment until listening to his talk. He spoke of Monet’s art being the “Anti-depressant” however his demeanor a grouch. The conflicting tranquil and angry characters are reflected in the title that is both images of insanity and joy. This made me feel slightly more normal for lacking people skills while I paint. When I am consumed by the painting process my brain shuts off the ability to connect with people, which I have always found effort-ful. My husband knows to leave me alone when I am painting, even when people are over at our apartment while I am painting I’ve heard him tell them not to go near me.


Ross King speaking at the Annual Heller Lecture at the Vancouver Art Gallery, commenting that Monet was not a personable character


Ross King is a fantastic story teller. Without hesitation his stories of Monet kept going for the full lecture. In question period, he noted that he had 350,000 words in his research from three years and only approximately 100,000 words in his book. Even when asked a specific question, his elaboration on the topic showed his passion for his research. I was most interested in the fact the Lily paintings were done during WWI which has been my recent research of the Canadian War Art program during the Great War. This morning as I type this blog I wish I asked him what painter is next on his research list.

I have only walked through the Monet show briefly on Saturday. I look forward to checking out the show that is on display until October 1, 2017 (that said, I highly recommend a gallery membership – not only to skip the line anytime, but also to hear about the lectures first!).

I’d love to hear your feedback of the book, lecture or show! Maybe I will see you there.





Pin It on Pinterest

Share This