The Denver Art Museum wanted to display French impressionist painter Claude Monet’s range when putting an exhibit together that has resulted in a gem of a showcasing that spans a 75-year career and dozens of radiant nature scenes across Europe.
The exhibit, “Claude Monet: The Truth of Nature” is the most extensive of Monet’s work in more than two decades. DAM curators, in partnership with Germany’s Museum Barberini in Potsdam, designed the exhibit so that it represents the artist’s life. Monet traveled through Europe extensively searching for new motifs, thus the name of the exhibit.
The exhibit covers major themes throughout Monet’s life: his early work, which includes some sketches, Parisian Parcs (like the Parc Monceau, 1878), rasping views of northern coasts, and Mediteranian villages. The exhibit ends on a high note with Monet’s most recognizable flower gardens and lily ponds.
“Throughout his career, Monet was indefatigable in his exploration of the different moods of
nature, seeking to capture the spirit of a certain place and translating its truth onto the canvas,” said Angelica Daneo, Chief Curator and curator of European art before 1900 at the DAM. “Monet’s constant quest for new motifs shows the artist’s appreciation for nature’s ever changing and mutable character, not only from place to place, but from moment to moment, a concept that increasingly became the focus of his art.”
It’s clear, even to the untrained eye, that this is what made Monet different.
Unlike other French impressionist artists, as is evident in the exhibit, Monet captured landscapes outside of, and sometimes far from city centers. During the same era famous artists Edgar Degas and Edouard Manet were focusing on bustling, modern cities like Paris. When they did turn to landscapes it was often of parks and gardens located in the cities.
Monet captured those scenes, too. But he often spent time far from the crowded streets of Paris.
Monet “increasingly detached himself from urban settings and popular locales to seek a closer and more direct relationship with nature and its landscapes,” curators at the DAM write of the artist. Monet moved from Paris to Argenteuil, where many of his works are set. Then, he visited the coasts of Normandy where he captures a much different aesthetic, dark and moody.
Monet’s connection to the world around him is evident in the 120-piece exhibit at the DAM. A series of paintings from the northern coasts of France — along Normandy and Brittany — show Monet’s fixation on the power of nature. He often captured choppy waters meeting seaside cliffs from high vantage points, which elevated the drama he was able to convey.
That same connection to the natural world is evident in his unmistakable garden scenes. The Peony Garden he painted at the Cider Press House he rented in Giverny borders on being abstract, but remains true to the artist’s eye. Daneo describes Monet as a “trailblazer” for American expressionism (think Clyfford Still and Willem de Kooning). Monet often spent hours studying a scene, through different light and conditions. “Color is my daylong obsession, joy, and torment,” he once said.
The exhibit, covering 20,000-square feet, was no easy feat. Eighty lenders, including some private, from 15 different countries made the showing possible. Planning for the exhibit took more than three years, according to the museum.
Truth in Nature will be on display until February 2. In the spring, the exhibit will travel to the Museum Barberini.