The National Gallery presents the first purely Monet exhibition to be staged in London for more than twenty years. The exhibition entitled Monet & Architecture explores some of the lesser known aspects of the artist’s work.
The exhibition features more than seventy-five paintings by Monet and spans his long career from its beginnings in the mid 1860s to the public display of his Venice paintings in 1912. More than a quarter of the paintings in exhibition come from private collections around the world including works little-known and rarely exhibited.
Monet & Architecture is displayed in three sections – The Village and the Picturesque, The City and the Modern, and The Monument and the Mysterious. Each section illustrates how Monet used buildings in a variety of ways often not as the main subject but as part of a larger picture.
Although, most people think of Claude Monet as a painter of landscape, sea or gardens, this exhibition explores his often overlooked work in terms of architecture.
In the first room, there are a series of paintings from Normandy , the village of Vetheuil where Monet moved with his family and the Netherlands where Monet was fascinated by the huts, bridges and windmills standing out against the flat landscape.
The second room follows the Village and Picturesque theme but features a number of coastal paintings from the Normandy coast near Dieppe. A favourite location was the small village of Varengeville especially the area around the small village church.
In 1884, Monet followed the well-worn tourist path to the Mediterranean coast, some of the paintings include the 15th century bridge at Dolceacqua and the hilltop village of Bordighera. Fascinated by the light along the coast, Monet returned back to the coast in 1888 to paint at the ancient town of Antibes.
Many of paintings up to this point feature Monet looking for the unusual and picturesque man-made items in a natural landscape. In the next main theme of the exhibition, The City & the Modern, the paintings have a predominately urban landscape. Monet lived in London during the early 1870s when he fled the Franco Prussian war and was inspired by Thames and the Houses of Parliament to paint a series of paintings, there are also a series of 10 paintings of Argenteuil and the Parisian suburbs from the mid-1870s, seven Rouen Cathedrals from 1892–5, and the exhibition finishes with nine Venice canvases from 1908.
These urban landscapes illustrate that Monet’s use of buildings and architecture is often less concerned about the building itself but uses buildings as mirrors, to convey the play of light. the Venice canvases especially of the Doge’s Palace portray these qualities.
This fascinating exhibition provides plenty of evidence that Monet’s obsession with colour, light and shade was not just restricted to his more familiar landscapes but was used to dramatic effect on a wide series of paintings including the cityscapes of Paris, London and Venice. Painting in the open air, Monet managed not only to capture the dramatic colour and light but the way the natural world seems to blend and co-exist with man-made structures.
For more information, visit the National Gallery website here
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