My wife and I were in Paris and we went to the Orangerie Museum. There are two rooms of Monet water lilies, four giant canvases in each room. Three hundred and sixty degrees of lilac. “Imagine sleeping here,” my wife said. “Just a bed in the middle, surrounded by these.”
Monet kept painting water lilies. He had started by the turn of the century. I think that between 1920 and 1926, when he died, he painted nothing else.
Then you go and look him up and what do you find? He goes through phases of intense concentration – obsession – with the same subject. From 1899 to 1904 it was views of the Thames (Charing Cross Bridge, Waterloo Bridge, The Houses of Parliament). He painted 95 views. 1903 – 1909 he had his first water lily phase. 1908-1912 he painted views of Venice.
Magnolia Pictures & NYTimes
In Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011, directed by David Gelb) we follow Jiro, an eighty-five year old sushi-chef, who strives for perfection in his choice of fish, in his slicing of fish, in his preparation of fish, in his training of his sushi chefs – perfection every day. That is what a shokunin does, apparently – and we learn a shokunin is a person who strives for artistic perfection.
Six years painting water lilies every day. Haystacks over and over. The Rouen Cathedral over and over. Charing Cross Bridge, Waterloo Bridge, The Houses of Parliament – over and over again.