The Cathedral of Rouen

I had a 12th grade English teacher, who loved Shakespeare.  He tried to introduce us to all things Shakespeare.  At the time, all that I could handle was the Cliff Notes version.  So I didn’t absorb very much.

But one thing that I do remember, is that he highlighted the role of Shakespeare’s Fool.  (This character had different names in every play, including the Fool, the Jester, or the Clown.  In some plays he has a name.)

The Fool was a character in every story, who had something important to say. My teacher explained- “pay attention to the Fool.  No one in the story is paying attention to him, but you should”.  The fool had a message to share.

I had the good fortune to travel to Stratford-upon-Avon,  which was Shakespeare’s birthplace.  There is a statue on the street of his birth home.  I would have predicted that a statue outside of his birth home would be a statue of Shakespeare, or a statue of one of his most famous characters.

The statue is a statue of the Fool.

My children will tell you that sometimes I make a sound when I see something.  I make a sound that sounds like “huh”.  I do it unconsciously.  It means that I am struck by something.

I saw the statue, and I went “huh”.

Of all of the Shakespearean characters to choose from, someone decided to choose the Fool to immortalize.  I guess the Fool did have something important to share.


I have two Aunts who love French Impressionist art.  They tried their best, around the time I was in 12th grade, to introduce me to French Impressionism.  (I don’t know why people took such an interest in introducing me to culture when I was 17….)  One took me to the Barnes Foundation, back when it was in its original location in Merion.  She also encouraged me to someday visit the Musee D’Orsay, and the Musee de l’Orangerie, in Paris- two museums with a wealth of Impressionist masterpieces.

I have come to love the work of Claude Monet.  I can’t explain why-  but his work moves me.  I even purchased a print of one of his works, and hung it in my office, and in our office at home (it is known as The Artists Garden at Giverny).

Claude Monet painted several series of painting of the same object(s).  For example, he painted many versions of his garden.  He did the same with the Cathedral of Rouen, and haystacks, and poplars, and most famously, water lilies.  Monet loved painting water lilies.

I recently had the good fortune to see three of his variations of the Cathedral of Rouen at the Musee d’Orsay in Paris.  Three paintings, side by side, of the same cathedral.  And they all looked different.  One is bright and cheery, one is ethereal, and another is dark and forboding.  Same cathedral, different day, different feeling.


I think life is like that sometimes.  Same cathedral, different day, different feeling.  Different perspective.  I am grateful that I have the opportunity to paint word pictures, over and over and over again.

Were any of Monet’s variations wrong?  I don’t think so.  I think he changed his mind (or he had his mind changed), so his perspective changed every time he offered a portrait of the cathedral.

I’m not Shakespeare or Monet.  Thank goodness for that!  I have it way better than they did.  I have indoor plumbing, and heated seats.

But there is something that I can learn from them, about perspective, and impressionism.  I can have my mind changed.  As I once heard someone say-  “I reserve the right to be wrong”.  I also reserve the right to change my mind, or at least to have it changed.


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: