Monet and Architecture at the National Gallery
The very mention of the work of Claude Monet, the impressionist master, conjures up images of waterlilies, landscapes, and sunsets flecked with the deft and confident brush strokes of an artist that helped define the movement. The National Gallery attempts to restructure this view, and through the expert vision of curator Richard Thompson build another annexe into the Frenchman already towering reputation.
The exhibition follows three chapters of Monet’s rich relationship with buildings and architecture, from humble beginnings painting the dramatic cliffs of the Normandy coastline, through to images of the modern industrial city, and finally, effervescent series works. The neat segmentation helps situate him as a painter of his time, through the Franco-Prussian War of the 1870s and his relationships with other artists of the period including Sisley and Renoir. For Londoners visiting, it is a particular treat to see the views from the Thames, painted from the Savoy and St Thomas’s hospital addressed with such delicacy.
Monet’s talent for composition, in using and responding to changes in the modern landscape is shown off. Buildings are new tools for marking place, for playful uses and treatments of light, and a juxtaposition of the modern with the natural. The fleeting moments that Impressionism looks to capture are in many senses suited well to the “momentum of the modern” that Thompson describes. Still, against the age and fixity of series depicting Rouen Cathedral or the Doge’s Palace in Venice, we find an artist able to inject an ease and lightness into elegant architectural suggestion. He is a distinctly modern painter brushing up tantalisingly against the tensions with his subject matter.
The gallery has managed to bring together almost 80 paintings by the artist, nearly a quarter of which come from private collections. This is a rare and exquisite view of another piece of the impressionist mosaic that is befitting of the National Gallery. It looks to give visitors an encounter with Monet on a formidable plane that is a feast for eyes and mind alike.
Photos: Yufan Wang
Monet and Architecture is at the National Gallery from 9th April until 29th July 2018. For further information visit the exhibition’s website here.