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The Cover
August 15, 2001

Water Lilies

Author Affiliations

The Cover Section Editor: M. Therese Southgate, MD, Senior Contributing Editor.

JAMA. 2001;286(7):764. doi:10.1001/jama.286.7.764

Forget the names of things, Claude Monet (1840-1926) told the young American painter Lilla Cabot Perry. "Try to forget what objects you have before you—a tree, a house, a field, or whatever. Merely think, here is a little square of blue, here an oblong of pink, here a streak of yellow, and paint it just as it looks to you, the exact color and shape. . . ." Monet further told Perry that "he wished he had been born blind and then had suddenly gained his sight so that he could have begun to paint in this way without [first] knowing what the objects were that he saw before him. . . . Monet's philosophy of painting was to paint what you really see, not what you think you ought to see; not the object isolated as in a test tube, but the object enveloped in sunlight and atmosphere, with the blue dome of Heaven reflected in the shadows." (Reminiscences of Monet (1889-1909) by a young American painter, Lilla Cabot Perry, 1927. In: White BE. Impressionism in Perspective. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall; 1978.) Trees, in other words, do not know they are trees or water lilies know they are water lilies; it is we who say that they are. To the eye (and that is all that Monet was, according to Cézanne's famous dictum), there are only masses of color and shape, and inconstant colors and shapes at that, changing as the light changes, changing as our angle of vision changes.

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