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The Meaning of Nature in Claude Monet’s and Andy Goldsworthy’s Artworks

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The landscape of our earth has been interpreted differently by countless artists through many unique forms. Landscapes have been a common subject for art and are a way for artists to express how they observe the world through their mediums as well as to explore and appreciate the land and environment in the present time. Landscape artworks have been taken on by numerous artists throughout history, showing that each has their own specific representation about the beauty and the tragedy of our natural world. Artists communicate their own meaning and point of view of nature through their use of materials and techniques. Two artists that have imitated their personal meanings toward the landscape are Andy Goldsworthy and Claude Monet.

Andy Goldsworthy is a British sculptor, sight specific installation artist, and land and environmental artist. His artworks are all ephemeral and do not leave any permanent mark on the land. The ephemeral nature of his artworks requires him to take photographs as a form of documentation. One of Andy Goldsworthy’s environmental artworks is called ‘Ice Spiral – Tree Soul’ and was made on the 12th of January 1987. This artwork is made from raw materials being ice and a tree trunk. Through this sculpture, Goldsworthy seeks to understand nature by fully participating in it.

‘Ice Spiral – Tree Soul’ is a delicate and beautiful artwork that shows a spiral growing as it winds from the top to the base of a tree. Andy Goldsworthy’s materials and techniques are essential to his creative process as he relies on touch, materials naturally found, and tools. Twigs, ice, icicles, rocks, etc are all earthbound materials that Golsworthys uses in his artworks. shape is an element of design that Goldsworthy depends on as it creates the foundation of his sculptures. This along with emphasis makes his works stand out. The art process of the ‘Ice Spiral’ is that ice is found in his chosen shapes and the pieces are joined together with his own saliva. Since his land art is made from non-traditional materials and unconventional working methods it makes his art raw and diverse. Because of Goldsworthy’s unexpected nature to his art he is classified as a postmodern artist as he challenges how valuable the landscape is. This sculpture is a take on something new and different and has changed the way people view the landscape. Andy Goldsworthy plays with the irony that we can control nature but in the end, nature really controls us. He has omitted the social normality of what landscape art was and what he believes landscape art should be. He has challenged the social-cultural values and beliefs of his audience to illuminate his innovative works. Nature is ever-changing and Goldsworthy wants to demonstrate this. Goldsworthy is reinterpreting the landscape and how his sculpture temporarily interacts with the world.

Throughout the process of making the ‘Ice Spiral – Tree Soul’ sculpture, organic shape is a predominant element that was needed to create the structure of the spiral. Andy Goldsworthy uses natural elements in his works and relies on ice that has naturally gained its configuration. The unique constructions of the sculpture are unlike any other and conveys the freshness of the landscape. Although the particular shapes are immensely involved in creating his sculpture so is the element of emphasis. Since this piece of art is a stand-alone sculpture, the focal point of the audience is on the spiral. The placement of the spiral rotating around the tree demonstrates importance and special attention is directed towards the spiral.

Andy Goldsworthy’s tree spiral is independent and attracts audiences of all ages. Even though the artwork is not displayed in a gallery it is still well recognized. The natural essence and organic shape of this artwork evokes thoughts from his audience that the natural world can be aesthetic and surprising. The rawness of this sculpture translates Goldsworthys meaning of the landscape and how humans are connected to it. Goldsworthy uses the landscape as his own canvas, in the sense that all the materials he uses are straight from the environment and are unaltered. He explores the fact that using the most authentic materials in his artwork can bring people closer to the landscape. Through showcasing the main feature, stand-alone, shows how nature can always amaze us and how we need to care for it more.

Ultimately, Andy Goldsworthy’s sculpture ‘Ice Spiral – Tree Soul’ conveys a deeper meaning than it appears. His interpretation of the landscape is to create beautiful art by fully participating in the environment around him. By becoming entirely invested in his surroundings he is able to manifest the landscape in its genuine and true form. Unlike Andy Goldsworthy, Claude Monet conveys his meaning of the landscape through oil paints.

Claude Monet is a French impressionist painter that has challenged the landscape object in art. In one of his most famous paintings ‘Bridge over a Pond of Water Lilies’, painted in 1899, Monet pushes the boundaries in his interpretation of the landscape through his use of colour and brush strokes. Claude Monet emphasizes botanical elements in his artworks as well as portraying the motion and life of Mother Nature. ‘Bridge over a Pond of Water Lilies’ is produced by oil paints on a canvas, as are many of his artworks and demonstrates the serene atmosphere around him.

‘Bridge over a Pond of Water Lilies’ is a well-known piece of work that showcases living things in a still painting. Claude Monet would paint layers of oil paints to build up his artwork. Through this he uses the contrast of colours against one another, colours themselves and the element of harmony to create a luxurious artwork. Monet uses confident vertical and horizontal brushstrokes generating a crosshatch pattern to create the reflection of the water lilies and irises against the water. Monet’s self-assurance of brushstrokes of his painting is communicated to us through looser and freer strokes. Claude Monet would paint a coat of oil paint onto his canvas, and then wait for that to dry and then repeat the same operation again making his art process long but rewarding. ‘Bridge under a Pond of Water Lilies’ is a slow development that conveys the feeling of the landscape, not the coping of it. Monet wants to illuminate vibrant life out of a world of chaos in this painting. The subjective components of his art let the audience question how nature makes them feel and how they should feel towards nature.

Through immersing himself in the environment around him Monet is able to choose his palette and the contrast of colour correctly to create this piece. Claude Monet uses contrast in his artworks to outline the juxtaposition of the lighter and darker tones. Claude Monet’s palette creates simultaneous contrast as the yellows and the dark blues and purples are opposites on the colour wheel. Through the colour palette choice and contrast, mood is created. Monet also incorporates the feeling of harmony into his work. Making it appear that his work is peaceful and has a sense of connection.

Claude Monet uses colour to exhibit how natural his artwork is. Monet wants his audience to feel the sensation of the landscape thus making sure the balance of plants is natural and believable. Although ‘Bridge over a Pond of Water Lilies’ is a still painting of what Monet viewed it shows a plausible amount of light, space, and harmony through colour choice to make the audience feel as though they are in the same environment as Monet. Monet has also introduced the element of contrast to his artwork. The disparity of the colours on the oil painting highlights certain features of the artworks creating visual interest. Harmony is also a component to this painting. Each quality of the work is arranged in a particular way to give the viewer the feeling that all the parts of the artwork form together to create a coherent whole. Monet has created a full and teeming piece of art with all the different vegetation making the synergism of the work fulfilling. By using all of these stylistic features throughout ‘Bridge over Pond of Water Lilies’ Monet draws the audience in and engrosses them into his work

To summarise, Claude Monet interprets the landscape through oil paints to showcase the motion and life of nature, whereas Andy Goldsworthy uses materials found in the environment while creating his artwork within nature to show his meaning of the landscape. Both of these artists offer different interpretations of the landscape through their art process, materials and their own emotions towards their natural surroundings. Even though oil paints and sculptures of the landscape are different they both commonly share a deep understanding of the landscape of how different artists can elucidate their own sense of the natural world. 

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