Monet: Son Musée

February 7, 2010By Heidi EllisonArchive
Impression, Sunrise. Monet. Musee Marmottan Monet, Paris

Monet’s “Impression, Sunrise” (1873), the painting whose name has gone down in history. © Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris/Bridgeman Giraudon

The exhibition “Monet: Son Musée” at the Musée Marmottan Monet is as intimate as the current mega-Monet retrospective at the Grand Palais is spectacular, but it holds one ace that the latter is lacking: “Impression, Sunrise” (1873), the small painting that famously gave the Impressionist movement its name (in a derisive review by an art critic).

The Musée Marmottan Monet, set in a lovely mansion on the edge of Paris near the Bois de Boulogne, is the lucky owner of “Impression, Sunrise,” part of its large collection of works by Monet. The museum touched off a mouse-that-roared controversy last year when it rather petulantly refused to lend the celebrated picture to the Grand Palais’s show, pleading that it was planning its own exhibition, which opened a few weeks later.

This rather disjointed show begins with a few minor oils and watercolors by artist/friends who influenced the young Monet, including Johan Barthold Jongkind and Eugène Boudin, followed by a handful of portraits of Monet by his artist friends. In one of them, once thought to be a self-portrait but now attributed to John Singer Sargent, the virile young artist, bearded and bereted, sits in front of one of his landscape paintings with a cigarette dangling from his mouth, the very model for a Beatnik of the 1950s. Another lively portrait, by Renoir, shows Monet in profile, wearing a derby hat and smoking a pipe while reading a newspaper. The next room offers a few rare and rather labored portraits of Monets children and friends.

Another room contains examples of the caricatures Monet drew to make his living as a budding young artist, proof that he was capable of drawing (he claimed that he wasn’t very good at it). Better-known works are hung in a long gallery, but after seeing at the Grand Palais a number of his series (of haystacks, poplars and Rouen Cathedral) painted in different light at different times of day, it is disappointing to see here just one haystack, lovely as it is, and just one view of the cathedral. The gallery is too narrow to allow the distance needed to view Monet’s paintings properly.

“Impression, Sunrise,” small as it is, still manages to light up the chapel-like, darkened room in which it is tucked away with a few other paintings.

More Monet eye candy can be found on the second floor and in the basement. Notable works displayed upstairs include the wonderful “La Barque” (1890). In this unusual composition, an empty rowboat sitting in the upper right-hand corner of the canvas, partly hidden by foliage, is seen from above. The rest of this skyless painting, which shows the influence of Japanese prints on Monet’s work, is taken up by an expanse of waving grasses under dark green water.

The basement galleries are filled with numerous paintings of the flowers, weeping willows and watery reflections in his Giverny garden that Monet so loved to paint toward the end of his life. While not all of these large works are masterpieces, many are sublime.

Overall, this show can’t compete with the depth and breadth of the Grand Palais retrospective, but it is a perfect complement to it and well worth a visit.

Heidi Ellison

Musée Marmottan Monet: 2, rue Louis-Boilly, 75016, Paris. Métro: La Muette. Tel.: 01 42 24 07 02. Open Tuesday, 11am-9pm, Wednesday-Saturday, 11am-6pm. Closed Monday. Admission: €9. Through February 20.

Reader Terry Seligman writes:My favorite object in that museum is Monet’s palette. Last time I visited, it was in a Plexiglas vitrine on the main floor. It always makes me feel as if the artist has just stepped out for coffee and will return to his labors in just a few moments.”

Editor’s note: Two palettes are still displayed in that very spot, along with the special tinted eyeglasses Monet wore after his cataract operation.

Order books on Claude Monet from Paris Update’s Amazon store at no extra cost. Click on your preferred Amazon location: U.K., France, U.S.

Support Paris Update by ordering books from Paris Update’s Amazon store at no extra cost. Click on your preferred Amazon location: U.K., France, U.S.

Reader Reaction: Click here to respond to this article (your response may be published on this page and is subject to editing).

More reviews of Paris art shows.

© 2010 Paris Update


What do you think? Send a comment:

Your comment is subject to editing. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe for free!

The Paris Update newsletter will arrive in your inbox every Wednesday, full of the latest Paris news, reviews and insider tips.