Money Exhibition

Monet & Architecture

Last week, the highly anticipated exhibition, Monet & Architecture, opened at the National Gallery in London. This pivotal exhibition, showcases seventy-eight impressive canvases by the great master of Impressionism. London has not had an exhibition solely on the work of Claude Monet for over twenty years and this exhibition claims to offer a fresh look into the work of one of the worlds greatest landscape painters.

The exhibitions premise that the artist ‘consistently used architecture as a means to structure and enliven his art’ is a rather tenuous pursuit of a unique approach to the artists work. Whilst all of the paintings contain architecture; as either a compositional device, a geographical setting or the sole focus of the canvas as in the Rouen Cathedral Series, architecture plays a secondary role to the search for and depiction of light and atmosphere in Monet’s work.

Nevertheless, the exhibition is a magnificent collection of paintings spanning almost the entirety of Claude Monet’s career from 1864 to 1908. It begins with Monet’s exploration into the picturesque from his early Normandy paintings of the 1860s, to his depictions of Vétheuil at the end of the 1870s, when his notoriety as an Impressionist was already established.

Image 1 - Vetheuil

Vétheuil, Painted in 1879. Private Collection. (Recently sold at Christie’s London in February 2018)

The following rooms continue to look into Monet’s notion of the picturesque, through magnificent visions of the Normandy cliffs near the small village of Varengeville and Mediterranean seascapes of Bordighera and Antibes painted in the 1880s, as Monet begun to travel more extensively, aided by his growing popularity and a more stable financial situation.

The second part of the exhibition reveals Monet’s short-lived period of representing cities as images of the modern day, and here the depiction of architecture certainly takes a forefront. Highlights include the vibrant LeBoulevard des Capucines, on loan from the State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow, which almost didn’t make it to the opening of the exhibition in light of current political tensions. Painted in 1873, from a balcony overlooking the bustling boulevard below, this pivotal cityscape was exhibited at the first Impressionist exhibition the following year.

Image 2 - Boulevard

Le Boulevard des Capucines, Painted in 1973. State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow, Russia.

The exhibition closes with two magnificent rooms featuring works from Monet’s Rouen Cathedral Series of 1892-4, views of London from Monet’s three visits to the city from 1899-1901 and ethereal visions of Venice from his travels there in 1908. These paintings focus more on the subtleties of light and atmosphere rather than the structures and street life of the metropolis. In all three cities, their famous architectural monuments are absorbed into the mysterious alchemy of Monet’s colour and brushwork, so that the identity of buildings are secondary to his atmospheric chromatics and textures.

Image 3 - London

Le Parlement, coucher de soleil, Painted in 1904. Kunsthaus Zürich, Switzerland.


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