Monet in the CMA's Collection

The film I, Claude Monet, playing this Fri, 7/7 and Sun, 7/9 sheds new light on the Impressionist who was perhaps the most influential and successful painter of the late 19th and early 20th century. See the film, and see the artist’s work in the CMA’s collection with the tour below!

Water Lilies (Agapanthus), c.1915-1926, Claude Monet (French, 1840-1926), oil on canvas, Framed: 204.9 x 430.3 x 6 cm (80 5/8 x 169 3/8 x 2 5/16 in); Unframed: 201.3 x 425.6 cm (79 1/4 x 167 1/2 in). John L. Severance Fund and an anonymous gift 1960.81

Monet spent the last thirty years of his life painting the lily pond at his home in Giverny, a small town on the river Seine, just north of Paris. While his initial exploration of the water lily theme (1902-8) produced smaller works more descriptive of a garden setting, the later paintings focus on the water's shimmering surface, indicating the surrounding trees and lush bank only through reflections. Here reflection and reality merge in strokes of blue, violet, and green. Fronds of water plants sway underwater and passing clouds are reflected above.

By 1915 Monet had conceived a plan, called his Grande Décoration, for arranging a series of monumental water lily paintings in an oval room, thus creating a continuous panorama that would surround and enclose the viewer in an environment of pure color. That installation is located in two oval rooms in the Musée de l'Orangerie in Paris. Cleveland's painting is the left panel of a three-part variation on this water lily theme, on view in gallery 222. Its companions are now in the St. Louis Art Museum and the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City, Missouri.

The Red Kerchief, ca. 1868-1873, Claude Monet (French, 1840-1926), oil on fabric, Framed: 128.2 x 105.7 x 14.6 cm (50 1/2 x 41 5/8 x 5 11/16 in); Unframed: 99 x 79.8 cm (38 15/16 x 31 3/8 in). Bequest of Leonard C. Hanna, Jr. 1958.39

On view in gallery 222, The Red Kerchief is a remarkably innovative painting with few precedents in the history of art. The viewer is located inside a room looking toward a window when a woman, walking outside in a snowy landscape, suddenly stops to exchange momentary glances with the viewer. This startling image encapsulates a radically new way of seeing based on rapid visual scanning, as opposed to the more static compositions of conventional painting. Monet’s technique of applying pure color with quick, unblended brushstrokes reveals an equally ardent commitment to modernity. The woman’s mouth and eyes are only vaguely suggested by a few dashes of paint, quickly applied with complete disregard for traditional modeling or shading with tones. Monet kept this painting his entire life and hung it at his studio in Giverny, perhaps because it depicts his wife, Camille, who died in 1879, but also out of appreciation for the painting’s daring formal innovations.

Low Tide at Pourville, near Dieppe, 1882, 1882. Claude Monet (French, 1840-1926), oil on fabric, Framed: 65.4 x 106.6 x 10.5 cm (25 11/16 x 42 x 4 1/8 in); Unframed: 59.9 x 81.2 cm (23 9/16 x 32 in). Gift of Mrs. Henry White Cannon 1947.196

This is one of several views Monet painted of the cliffs and sand flats of Pourville, a small fishing village on the Normandy coast of France. The title indicates a momentary stage in the continuous cycle of nature, just as the quick, spontaneous application of paint reflects Monet's efforts to capture shifting effects of light, weather, and tide. The paint layers under the beach indicate that this part of the composition originally depicted water, as would have been appropriate for a depiction of high rather than low tide. Similar changes were made in the clouds during the painting process.

Spring Flowers, 1864, Claude Monet (French, 1840-1926), oil on fabric, Framed: 144.4 x 117.1 x 12 cm (56 13/16 x 46 1/8 x 4 11/16 in); Unframed: 116.8 x 90.5 cm (45 15/16 x 35 5/8 in). Gift of the Hanna Fund 1953.155

This early work reveals Monet's fascination with capturing the transitory effects that became the primary focus of his later innovations. Painted with almost scientific accuracy, this still life has a freshness and immediacy derived partly from its composition. Isolated against a dark background, the fully mature peonies, potted hydrangeas, and basketed lilacs spill downward and outward from the geraniums at the rear. At the same time, Monet's energetic brushwork conveys the sparkling play of light on leaves and petals.


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