Monet and the Mediterranean

Monet and the Mediterranean

Monet and the Mediterranean

Monet and the Mediterranean

Excerpt

An underlying paradox characterizes Monet studies: while the art of Claude Monet has elicited a greater volume of research, publications, and exhibitions than that of almost any other Western artist (on par, perhaps, with Picasso), it is still possible to discover facets of his work that have remained unexplored until now. This tantalizing situation very much applies to the present exhibition: it seemed only too tempting to bring to the eyes of our public, and to publish, often for the first time in color, the greatest number to date of Monet's Mediterranean works. Indeed, these clusters of paintings, conceived and created together during the course of Monet's three campaigns on the Mediterranean, were primarily intended to be seen and enjoyed as groups, in their togetherness. The primary raison d'être of the project seemed evident: if one readily associates Monet with the obsessive task of "painting light," would it not make sense to look at his works that were produced under the most extreme light -- the light of the South? Bordighera and Antibes, on the Italian and French Rivieras, and Venice, each in very distinct ways, provided the artist with the most intense light conditions he could have hoped for, short of traveling to Texas.

Yet, given that we are dealing with Monet, painting light was not simple. First, for an obvious reason, light can be nothing without what is lit: the constantly shifting elements--sea, mountains, canals, and so forth-- that constitute Monet's motifs. In addition, the intensity of light is inconstant: light is inseparable from the flux of time. Finally, the fluctuations of light were matched by the vicissitudes of Monet's own psyche, and by his intense need to be heard, seen, and imagined by others, while immersed in his search for himself. Monet's sojourns on the Mediterranean, and his ensuing pictorial program, were fraught with unsolvable complexities.

The story of Monet's pursuit of his goal and his often agonizing struggle seemed to justify the effort on our part to reunite works that epitomize many themes inherent in the story of modernism. Many of these paintings, however, had long fallen into oblivion, and this project would likely never have seen completion . . .

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