Member’s Preview Presentation
Presenter: Emily, Member of the Public Programs Department
Australia only has five works by Monet in permanent collections, of which two are in Victoria. With over sixty works in this current exhibition we are very lucky to see so many of Monet’s later works in the one place.
The Musée Marmotten Monet has the largest collection of Monet’s paintings in the world. This collection traces the evolution of his garden over twenty years including work that inspired the abstract expressionists.
Monet was considered to be the father and master of French Impressionism. His early years were not financially successful but later on he did well enough to be able to purchase his house, travel and employ gardeners for his expanding garden in Giverney.
During the 1840s, the middle class in France grew and became influential. During this time, as the child of a fairly well off family, Monet began to draw. He was encouraged to pursue his art. With such mentors as Delacroix his skills soon became apparent.
During the 1870’s new inventions such as the camera and paint in tubes made it possible to begin what we now familiarly call plein air painting. As the Impressionist movement took off, Monet’s natural leadership, clear vision and confidence made him come to the fore. He mingled with politicians and people of influence as well as other artists and was also a great influence on visiting Australian artists. He painted with the likes of John Peter Russell from Australia and his influence can be seen in his paintings of the time. He also painted with Frédéric Bazille. He became good friends with both these artists. He was also good friends with Pissaro and Renoir.
Monet showed his love of water so much that he became known as the painter of water. He travelled to places such as London during the Franco-Prussian war to avoid being conscripted into the army, and produced some beautiful paintings of London city. This is where he was influenced by Turner and Constable, whose use of colour and light was something that he admired.
He also met an art dealer named Paul Durand-Ruel who took him on as patron and dealer of his work. Moving back to Paris after the war, the river became a major topic. Sales improved and in Argenteuil he moved into a new home, and other Impressionist painters joined him.
This was all leading to the first Impressionist exhibition where the name, originally meant to be an insult, was turned around and used as the official name for the movement. The good economy didn’t last however, and Monet was soon forced to moved again to a shared home. Soon after his wife died and he was now the sole father of two.
This leads us to his move to Giverny in 1883. Monet moved there with new lover and her six children as well as his own two. In the small town a mixed family such as this was not socially accepted and the family had a solitary life. Monet travelled to paint in the winter, and in the warmer months painted and tended the garden.
Monet painted series’ of paintings of the same subject. During this time he did his series about Rouen Cathedral and the well known Haystacks. These were very successful. He went to Norway and loved the snow and the way the light reacted to it. After seven years he was able to buy the house and his journey building his now famous garden began in earnest.
Monet’s Garden was planted with the changing seasons in mind, he planted considering colour and time of year so that there was always something going on. He loved roses and planted a row of climbing roses over arches leading to the house. He went on to purchase the land across the road to develop ponds. These became his lily ponds where he painted a multitude of colours and went on to work not only from the shore but also from a small boat that he built. He even brought in a Japanese gardener to tend his Oriental planted garden and put in an oriental bridge, which can be seen in many of his paintings. At one stage he had several gardeners tending his garden, even taking the dust from passing trains off the waterlilies for him to see them better to paint. All these series of paintings were to help him to understand his subject better.
We may like to think of Monet happily painting in his garden through an unworried lifetime, but he lived through two wars and the onset of cataracts. The loss of his sight, mostly in one eye more than the other can be seen in the change of style his later years. Monet developed depression and nearly lost the will to paint. He could not see detail and could not see colour properly. It is thanks to his second wife (the lover he was now married to) that he took a trip to Italy to regain some of his enthusiasm and drive to paint. But sad events came to him again with the loss of his wife, son and daughter in a short period of time.
Finally Monet decided to have the surgery to save his vision. The paintings he had been working on became clearer to him. Some he kept and finished, some he destroyed as he was not pleased with them.The large panels he had begun were completed. Many of his works he now held on to as he was successful enough to not have to sell anything he painted. His painting of the roses in his garden after his surgery show his renewed clarity to see the beautiful blues of the sky and various colours in his beloved roses – and his delight in being not only able to see them again but also to paint them.
At the age of 86 years, in 1926 Monet passed away. His home and garden, now a gallery were donated to the public by his son Michel. To cap off the life of this amazing artist I would like to quote what he said of himself.
“Everyone discusses my art and pretends to understand, as if it were necessary to understand, when it is simply necessary to love.” Claude Monet
This was a terrific way to get ready for seeing the beautiful work of this brilliant artist. I can not wait to go to the exhibition! I may have to see it more than once, to get the full benefit of learning from a master and drink in all the amazing colours I am sure are waiting for us.
I have bought the book, am excited to get into the read, but nothing will compare to seeing these wonderful paintings in font of me!