It may surprise lovers of Impressionism in the U.S. and Britain that Claude Monet, the artist whose name most hold synonymous with Impressionism, doesn’t evoke the same level of reverence in his native France. Not that he isn’t popular; the French just seem a bit more blasé about their cornucopia of Impressionist works and the nominal star of the group.
A new exhibition at the Grand Palais in Paris seeks to change that, if by no other means than overwhelming visitors with the sheer number of Monet’s stunning works collected in a single place.
Over 200 of his paintings have been collected from museums in France and around the world, in an exhibition that spans Monet’s career from the early realism of the 1860′s to the fiery Impressionist canvasses of the 1920′s.
The Grand Palais’s own website has always been essentially useless in seeking information about exhibitions there, which are usually mounted by other institutions. The Musée d’Orsay, co-sponsor of the exhibition, also has little to offer.
On digging further, I found that the Réunion des Musées Nationaux, the other co-sponsor, has the in depth information about the exhibit.
If you’re a regular reader of Lines and Colors, you may have heard me gripe about the relative lack of high-resolution art images on the web, frustrated with the small teaser images most sites seem to find sufficient.
You have to be willing to wait through a somewhat slow-loading Flash interface, but in the Gallery you will find beautiful images of Monet’s work, in most cases two or three times common screen resolution.
The gallery is arranged chronologically. Click on an individual image, or click on “All the Paintings” at left to start at the earliest, and you can move through them in order.
Be sure to click on the images themselves to zoom to the larger version (linked for most though not quite all of the paintings). Do yourself the favor of clicking the plus sign to bring the view all the way up to 100% to see the images in proper focus (they are slightly blurry in lower resolutions), and you will be rewarded with images of Monet’s work in which you can see the texture of the individual brushstrokes.
If you are interested enough in Monet to view all of the paintings, be prepared for a major time sink. I don’t know if all 200 or so paintings from the exhibition are included in the online gallery, but they may well be.
It’s wonderful to tour through Monet’s 60 year career, watch his approach evolve and change, and in particular, to see several of the famous series, the haystacks, Rouen Cathedral, Houses of Parliment, and of course the water lilies, in which he repeatedly painted the same subject at different times in different light.
For those who live near Paris, or can travel there (sigh), the exhibition runs until 24 January, 2011.
You may want to book your tickets early, by all accounts the exhibition is fulfilling its role in generating the kind of enthusiasm for Monet in France that he has enjoyed in the the U.S. and Britain for the last 100 years.
Even if you think you know Monet, this exhibition, and its online version, may reveal him anew; perhaps allowing you to begin to see through the Impressionist master’s remarkable eyes.
Cezanne reportedly said of him: “Monet is just an eye — but God, what an eye!”