Monet and the Impressionsts

April 24, 2009 at 2:50 am | Posted in Exhibition Review | 1 Comment
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I finally ‘got’ the impressionists. After seeing their work in various places around the world – and being impresssed – it was in my home city of Wellington that I finally got ‘them’ – the trick is to step backway way back

April 10, 2009 by

Exhibition Hanger

Paper Hanger Blog
New Zealand

Most of the paintings were by Claude Monet; Works by Paul Cezanne, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Edgar Degas, Camille Pissarro, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley, and Utagawa HiroshigeI were also on display. The collection comes from Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, who are renovating part of their gallery. Instead of putting the works into storage, they are touring the world.

The exhibition is set out chronologically: one decade at a time. With a separate section for when Monet was doing a series of the same scene; one of the Japanese influence; and another of odds and ends. This allows the viewer to see the style develop – moving ever further away from a photographic quality, towards a – well – impressionistic quality.

Te Papa are to congratulated for exhibiting the paintings in a space and configuration that allows the viewer to get ‘away from the paintings’. Clever use of ‘broken walls’ allows the viewer to get 10-15 meters away from a painting. When I did this, the paintings really came alive. The painting of Charring Cross Bridge resolved from a misty out of focus work into a briliantly defined bridge viewed from a great height – it was likelooking at it from a helicopter on a clear day. Likewise the painting of Rouen Cathedral became this remarkable piece of architecture, as opposed to a rough unfocussed old building.

The painting I would buy, if I had the money and large enough room is Meadow with haystacks near Giverny; and if I could not have it I would have Meadow at Giverny. Monet was able to capture and reproduce the effect of a low setting sun casting its rays (and causing shadow) through trees into a field or meadow; just breath taking.

The other painting that really grew on me was Cap Martin, near Menton. at first the relationship of the main elements in the painting clashed – the mountains were out of focus, the path was more of a steep bank, and the little town seemed indistinct. Then I inadvertantly looked at it from another ‘room’ and it all resolved.; it was like those magic eye puzzles. Suddenly, the steep bank became a shallow flat clay path, the clouds floated above the mountains casting their shadow on the slopes below, and the town occupied a place at the base of the mountains, edged by a river.

One oddity was the self-portrait by Cezanne looks like New Zealand’s own Sir John Trimmer!

At NZD 15 per adult, you would be silly not to go.



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  1. I went again last Saturday; we arrived at 9:15am and got into the exhibit at 10:00am. The queue reached all the way to the cafe – talikng the long way around the balcony. There were lots of people this time and hard to get far enough from the paintings without people stepping up to look at them or just to chat with each other.

    I hired one of the 5$ audio guides and found it contained lots of information and even showed you video clips and photos. Well worth it.

    With so many people, it was not an atmosphere that made you want to linger – so by 10:45am we had left the exhibition and the museum! As I left, I heard one of the museum staff say to new arrivals: “the queue for the Monet exhibition is running at 2 and a half hours”.

    If you are going, and it is still worth, get there at 9:00am !!

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