It’s that time of year! I can’t speak for other states, but in Michigan, Memorial Day weekend is a Big Deal. It is the unofficial kick-off to all things summer! Pools are opened, RVs are fired up, flags are hoisted, kids are done learning (whether or not school is still in session), stores run low on s’mores supplies, pasty skin readies for the first sunburn of the year, boats are launched, and grills are dusted off. And of course, there is the Memorial Day traffic to contend with as the entire population of Michigan migrates to one waterway or another, like flamingos to their breeding ground.
To get us all pumped about some time at the lake, here are three paintings that scream, “Relax by a body of water!”
- I have to hand it to Vincent Van Gogh. He really painted something for every occasion, and he does not fail me now. Fishing in Spring, the Pont de Clichy is a quiet water scene. This is how people in his day would have celebrated Memorial Day if it existed. He didn’t know about the future, or he would have painted a scene featuring pontoons tied together, beer coolers floating beside donut-shaped inflatables, and tipsy vacationers singing Jimmy Buffet. He went the serene route, and nailed it.
Van Gogh was studying Seurat’s pointillism technique when he painted this, and the influence is clear, but not as… well, pointed. Rather than dots, VG’s strokes are more like dashes. It gives it a unique look from some of his other paintings, but still has a very Van Gogh feel. I think he used the blues and greens beautifully together.
2. You know we can’t talk waterfront, without mentioning Claude Monet, whose most famous paintings are aquatic scenes. We know his super famous water-lily and bridge paintings from his home in Giverny, but I like this one for the upcoming holiday weekend:
Substitute those flags for Old Glory and you might be looking at a home in Harbor Springs, Michigan or on Mackinaw Island. In truth, the models are his family members on vacation at his aunt’s villa in Le Havre. The flowers are vibrant and lush, boats are working and providing leisure, and this very much makes me wish I had a parasol. (Sidebar: Monet also painted Impression Sunrise at Le Havre, which is the painting I use as the heading backdrop for this website.)
3. This next painting takes us in a slightly different direction, but it’s a Picasso painting that I actually like, so it seems like I should include it:
Picasso doesn’t strike me as a fisherman- I feel like he’d prefer a poetry slam to a late-night fishing trip, but what do I know? Maybe his home was full of Billy the Singing Bass and wooden signs that read, “Good things come to those who bait.” In any event, I love how he portrayed this fishing trip, with it’s bright, chunky shapes and determined figures in a too-small boat. At first, it strikes me as a fun, “let’s go to the lake” painting, but it was painted at a time of extreme distress. Picasso was still hopeful a war would not break out, but mere weeks after this painting’s completion, Nazis invaded Poland. So, while it isn’t a celebratory piece, it is appropriate for Memorial Day. This coming weekend does kick off summer, true- but most importantly, commemorates our beloved, courageous military men and women.
Have a fun and safe Memorial Day!