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Claude Monet: In full light

On the occasion of the last day of the exhibition "Claude Monet: in full light" presented this summer at the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco, I decided to share with my readers a selection of the works that I preferred during my journey in this fabulous universe, perfectly rendered in a qualitative and original scenography.

The exhibition retraces the painter's entire career, from his early years, the meeting with Eugène Boudin, to the water lilies of Giverny, where Claude Monet settled from 1883.

Among the more than a hundred paintings presented, it was very difficult for me to make a choice! I will comment on fourteen of them which particularly touch me.


Boaters in Argenteuil

André Derain. Collioure - le port de pêche. 1905. Collection particulière
Claude Monet. Canotiers à Argenteuil. 1874. Collection Nahmad

In 1874, Claude Monet lived in Argenteuil with his wife Camille and their son Jean.

He often receives his friends from the Gleyre workshop where he got his start. Thus, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Alfred Sisley frequently visited him. Together, they sometimes paint the same pattern. As they had done for the Grenouillère baths in 1869, Monet and Re-

black set up their easel on the banks of the Seine in Argenteuil.

Same boat, same pontoon, and nevertheless different treatment. In the background, Monet opts for a rowing race, while Renoir prefers sailboat regattas. The rendering of light and reflections is a permanent subject of study for Monet. He works on it “by force” as he likes to say. Already, shapes emerge in his work from a daring combination of light and colors.


Cabin in Sainte-Adresse

André Derain. Madame Matisse en kimono. 1905. Tate Modern
Claude Monet. Cabane à Sainte-Adresse. 1867. Musée d'Art et d'Histoire. Genève

Seven years earlier, Claude Monet painted a cabin in Sainte-Adresse, not far from the house occupied by his aunt Lecadre. The rendering of Norman landscapes where the influence of Eugène Boudin shines through, at least initially, in the presentation of perspective and color is a recurring theme for Monet, who went to the coast several times to capture a wild nature with vibrant colors.

Claude Monet. Cabane de douaniers à Pourville. 1882. Collection. particulière.
Claude Monet. Cabane de douaniers à Pourville. 1882. Collection. particulière.

A similar motif painted in 1882 shows Monet's progression in maturity, through a much more precise rendering, using the fades of colors directly on the canvas, rather than preparing them on the palette... the customs officers' cabin at Pourville is placed on an overhang of the cliff, from which one could crumble by hand the clods of ravined earth covered with rare vegetation resisting the onslaught of the wind...




Path in the wheat in Pourville

Claude Monet. Chemin dans les blés à Pourville. 1882. Denver Art Museum
Claude Monet. Chemin dans les blés à Pourville. 1882. Denver Art Museum

And since we are in Pourville, let us let ourselves be led along this path which descends towards the sea, among the wheat ready to be harvested. The bold contrast between the red-ochre of the groynes and the intense blue of the sea under a sky swollen with cumulus clouds gives this painting incredible relief.


Winter effect in Argenteuil

Claude Monet. Effet d'hiver à Argenteuil. 1875. Collection Nahmad
Claude Monet. Effet d'hiver à Argenteuil. 1875. Collection Nahmad

In terms of the harsh climate, Claude Monet is a master at translating the pale and muffled atmosphere of a snowy landscape. Thus, this view of Argenteuil, executed 6 years after the very famous magpie, captured in Etretat.


The flood

Claude Monet. L'inondation. 1881. Arp Musem Bahnhof Rolandseck
Claude Monet. L'inondation. 1881. Arp Musem Bahnhof Rolandseck

After the snow, the rain and the unleashing of the waves of the Seine which passes over the plain of Lavacourt with, in the background, the hillsides of Vétheuil where Monet lived between 1878 and 1881. The showers are rendered by oblique lines which come beating the waves sharp as razors...


Fishing boats

Claude Monet. Bateaux de pêche. 1883. Denver Art Museum
Claude Monet. Bateaux de pêche. 1883. Denver Art Museum

Claude Monet was an exceptional painter of seascapes, as evidenced by these fishing boats which contemplate turbulent waves, under a very high horizon. The immensity of the sea which occupies two-thirds of the space, the fragile placidity of the characters give this painting an incredible realism...


Strada romana a Bordighera

Claude Monet. Strada Romana a Bordighera. 1884. Hasso Plattner Collection
Claude Monet. Strada Romana a Bordighera. 1884. Hasso Plattner Collection

Barely settled in Giverny, Claude Monet left for the first time on the Mediterranean coast in December 1883, in the company of his friend Renoir. He was so enthusiastic about the vegetation and the light he found there that he decided to return there, alone this time, on January 17, 1884 for a study trip entirely financed by his gallery owner Durand-Ruel.

Leaving Alice and the 8 children of their blended family in Giverny, he left for what was initially supposed to be a three-week absence which ultimately lasted three months. There, he settled in Bordighera, in the “English pension”. There he painted several views of the Roman road which descends towards the valley. It will take Monet several weeks and sustained work to finally succeed in hanging the abundance of vegetation which had nothing to do with his Normandy countryside...


Le château et le pont de Dolce Aqua

Claude Monet. Le pont de Dolce Aqua. 1884. Musée Marmottan-Monet
Claude Monet. Le pont de Dolce Aqua. 1884. Musée Marmottan-Monet

Monet said of this bridge that it was a “jewel of lightness”! With a span of thirty meters, overlooking the river by ten meters, the Dolce Aqua bridge, is located below the eponymous castle. Monet visited Dolce Aqua at least three times during his stay in Bordighera.


Olive trees in the Moreno garden

Claude Monet. Bois d'oliviers au jardin Moreno. 1884. Collection particulière
Claude Monet. Bois d'oliviers au jardin Moreno. 1884. Collection particulière

After several attempts to gain access to the Moreno garden, Claude Monet finally obtained authorization to enter and paint in this magical place which borders the Borgo. On February 5, 1884, he was received by Francesco Moreno and he discovered - these are his words - a true enchantment. He painted numerous paintings there, including several studies around the olive tree. The glittering of the sun's rays between the branches and leaves of these venerable trees is a real tour de force.


By canoe on the Epte

Claude Monet. En canot sur l'Epte. 1890. Museu de Art Sāo-Paoloo
Claude Monet. En canot sur l'Epte. 1890. Museu de Art Sāo-Paoloo

Installed in Giverny from 1883, Claude Monet would never stop expanding and preserving nature that he wanted to shape in his own way. He exchanged gardening advice with Gustave Caillebotte, and created a universe which, little by little, would constitute his main source of inspiration, apart from the stays he would continue to make in Normandy, Norway, the Creuse or even in London.

The particular framing of his daughters-in-law Suzanne and Blanche in a canoe on the Epte leaves the oar to share the work in a diagonal which accentuates the impression of movement already initiated by the fact that the canoe is not represented in full on the canvas.

Claude Monet. Nymphéas. 1916-1919. Musée Marmottan-Monet
Claude Monet. Nymphéas. 1916-1919. Musée Marmottan-Monet

While he had begun to design his garden at Giverny out of love for flowers, and had had water lilies brought into his pond for the same reason, Claude Monet would little by little transform these stretches of calm water punctuated with flowers as the main subject of his palette.

Claude Monet. Nymphéas. 1903. Musée Marmottan-Monet
Claude Monet. Nymphéas. 1903. Musée Marmottan-Monet

Monet painted nearly three hundred canvases representing water lilies, forty of which were large format, including his "decorations" presented at the Musée de l'Orangerie des Tuileries, and offered by the painter to the State in celebration of the victory of 1918.

Claude Monet. La maison, vue du jardin aux roses. 1922-1924. Musée Marmottan-Monet
Claude Monet. La maison, vue du jardin aux roses. 1922-1924. Musée Marmottan-Monet

We will end this journey with an almost abstract view of the house in Giverny, which emerges from vegetation with unreal colors, as seen by Monet, who had accepted that his right eye, which had become almost blind, would be operated on for cataract in 1923, at the insistence of his great friend Georges Clemenceau.


Claud Monet par Charles Giron. 1884. Musée Marmottan-Monet
Claud Monet par Charles Giron. 1884. Musée Marmottan-Monet

In his art history lectures, Fabrice Roy combines the past with the present, in a poetic and playful evocation of the 19th century in France...




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