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Monet & Architecture at the National Gallery

(© The National Gallery, London)

Monet on your mind? You’ll be pleased to hear that a major new exhibition at the National Gallery covers all your French master needs.

Monet & Architecture, which opens to the public next week (April 9), allows visitors to look at French impressionist Claude Monet’s work in an entirely new way.

Through iconic and lesser known works, it focuses on his fascination with architecture – the first exhibition ever to do so.

Bringing together 80 paintings depicting various countries around Europe, our critic Matthew Collings said in his review, “I wish I could give this exhibition more than five stars.”

It’s sure to be one of the biggest exhibitions of the year, so if you’re planning a trip allow us to whet your appetite with seven unmissable highlights from the exhibition.


Houses of Parliament, Sunset (Le Parlement, coucher de soleil) (1900-1)


Kunsthaus Zürich)

Monet’s fascination with London began when he took refuge in England following the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian war in 1870, but he was dedicated to capturing it on canvas for many years afterwards. He returned many times, including a stay at the Savoy Hotel where he would paint the view from the 6th floor. In total he painted over a 100 works of London, including this 1904 work that shows London in a moment that most of us are too busy to stop and notice.


The Water-Lily Pond (Le Bassin aux nymphéas) (1899)


(© The National Gallery, London)

Obviously, you can’t visit any Monet exhibition without a good long gawp at his water-lilies. You’ve seen them a hundred times before, but nothing compares to seeing them in person, where you’ll be transfixed by the textures and transported by the healing colours.


Snow Effect at Giverny (Effet de neige à Giverny) (1893)


(© New Orleans Museum of Art. The Mrs. Frederick M.Stafford Collection, EL.1977.9)

This predominantly white canvas is a striking contrast to Monet’s love affair with colour, but it is still distinctly his hand, exploring how changing light affects a landscape.

Painted in his home village of Giverny, you have to hope for the sake of his fingers he didn’t paint it en plein air, the outdoor painting technique favoured by the Impressionists.


The Coal-heavers (Les Déchargeurs de charbon) (1875)


RMN – Grand Palais (musée d’Orsay) / Jean-Gilles Berizzi)

We don’t often put Monet and industrialisation together, but via his interest in cities he actually captured a lot of social and economic changes happening in the Parisian suburbs during the late 19th century. This painting, which shows coal barges in Asnieres being unloaded at the docks, is also one of the only paintings in the exhibition to show human figures.


Rouen Cathedral (1894)


(Private collection © Photo courtesy of the owner)

Monet made return trips to Rouen in Normandy to capture the cathedral from multiple angles. He would rent rooms above shops to get exactly the view he wanted, and the exhibition shows his fastidiousness in depicting the subject. Perhaps above all works in the exhibition, this series shows Monet’s dedication to architecture.


Antibes from la Salis (Antibes vue de la Salis) (1888)


(Private collection © Photograph courtesy of Sotheby’s)

If any painting in this show is going to have you immediately booking your summer holiday to the south of France, it surely will be this one. He painted the ancient town of Antibes, which is next to Cannes, many times; this work shows his dual interests in nature and architecture.


The Customs Officer’s Cottage, Varengeville (La Cabane du Douanier, Varengeville) (1882)


(© President and Fellows of Harvard College, Cambridge, Massachusetts)

The hypnotic waves look as though they could turn at any minute, and the tiny ramshackle cottage stands at odds with the sprawling sea around it. Monet’s paintings are often praised for their tranquility and ability to inspire calm reflection, but this painting of an old cottage used by customers officers to keep watch for smugglers shows he could also fill a scene with drama.

Monet & Architecture is at the National Gallery, WC2 (020 7747 2885; from Monday until July 29


Posted in: News on April 10, 2018 by...