What is wrong with this picture of the French wilderness? (Wild Poppies near Argenteuil by Claude Monet) Specifically Monet’s idea of wilderness? I will tell you:
1) Awkward Clothing: Clearly these people have not been trekking about all day in such full-bodied clothing, especially when it is ‘hot enough’ to carry a parasol. No one in their right mind would dress up so extravagantly to undertake any walk of substance. I bet they’re wearing heels too.
2) Location: As the house in the distance implies, they’ve probably travelled less than 100 metres from civilisation, whether it be from from their summer convalescence home, plush horse-drawn carriage or new shiny automobile, and will spend a maximum of three hours outside, and only fifteen minutes of this spent walking to and from the inevitable picnic spot.
3) Accessories: Obviously they are not prepared for lasting adventure. Instead of water, maps, backpacks and other vital supplies, they have chosen miniature umbrellas, of little use in the event of rain, and hats with a minimum of sun protection – liable to follow the wind at the slightest hint of a breeze.
4) Lack of Predatory Animals: No such wilderness would be complete without animals, and where there are animals there are always bigger and/or poisonous animals to eat them. To me, this landscape suggests no such presence of either. It seems perfectly safe, in an unrealistic way.
5) Landscape: Despite the gently rolling hills, it is doubtful that even the smallest of the children depicted will have to climb or even step over or even around anything. It is a pleasant field. Too pleasant. Probably on someone’s estate.
Therefore I pity those poor Bourgeois souls, who have been given a false impression of what it is like to be outside. The scene is to wilderness what Nandos is to traditional Portuguese food.
Monet, and indeed the Impressionist movement in general – including Debussy – seem to exhibit this demented city-folks love of the ‘country,’ but this is as Ives would and did say manneristic – they don’t really get their hands dirty, instead bringing the rich trappings and comfort of the city outdoors with them.
Moral: Real life – It happens.