Monet in Normandy
I will preface this review with the statement that Claude Monet (1840-1926) is one of my favorite painters, hands down. This show, mostly compiled from the private collections of the vestiges of the European aristocracy, was an all around excellent experience.
The exhibition is showing at the Legion of Honor (17 June – 17 September 2006). The approximately fifty works therein contained spanned the artist’s entire career. All of the pieces were representations of various idyllic scenes from the many years that the artist spent in Normandy in Northern France. The imagery is generally bucolic and emblematic of the turn of the century rural French experience. From sea-beaten cliffs, to roiling seas, to the infamous haystacks and lily pads, to bustling sea-side tourist towns, Monet captured the fleeting impressions of a unique and unmistakable era.
The distribution of the pieces allows the viewer to see the evolution of Monet’s revolutionary and defining impressionistic technique. In the earlier paintings the remnants of the realism of his predecessors is easily visible. The edges are sharper. The blocks of color are more solid. Depth of field is more clearly defined. Then as the exhibition progresses the style begins to change.
Monet’s characteristic faded, pastel blurriness begins to creep into his work somewhere in the second gallery. The edges blur. The colors soften and blend. The line between static and mobile fades. The viewer has now entered a mildly hallucinatory dreamscape fresh out of a northern European fairytale. Small brick cottages fade into flower-covered hillsides, which fade into steeply sloping channeled cliffs, which fade into the pastel maelstrom of the ocean, which fades into the airy pink remains of a hardly present Norman sunset.
I find Monet’s work the easiest to get lost in. It takes only a glance to dive into the dancing realms of innumerable separate-yet-connected pastel splotches. One painting can seem without end. So many layers of colors from all ends of the spectrum. Images that appear to be nothing more than random marking of color upon closer inspection, leap out in an ever-so-pleasing impression of a beautiful reality with only so much a step back and maybe a slight squint of the eyes.
This exhibition comes highly recommended. Not only are the pieces exquisite, but they are also rare. Many of them are on American soil outside of a private European collection for the very first time. I would consider this an afternoon very well spent in a baby blue and soft pink wonderland of bygone times.Posted in citylife