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Issue Date: Monday, November 28, 2011 Issue: 5-3 Last Update: Thursday, December 01, 2011
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At-a-glance

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Claude Monet (1840-1926) was a leader in the renowned impressionist movement. He inspired thousands and allowed these aspiring artists to enter his creative world–the gardens of his country estate at Giverny. Giverny, located in the south of France, is the focus point of the collection, as it was the inspiration of the pieces. Throughout Monet’s life, he was always pushing boundaries; this avant-garde attitude was communicated throughout the exhibition. Monet’s Garden: The Lure of Giverny, a current exhibit at the Columbus Museum of Art, is an exceptional collection, a journey through Monet’s artistic life, as well as the American contemporaries he inspired.

The exhibition is organized in chronological order. This helps the viewer see the development, or journey, of the art. The early pieces Monet created at Giverny are full of brilliant color; full of lush greens and blues, with splashes of contrasting colors, such as pinks and oranges. A showcase of the exhibit is Field of Yellow Irises at Giverny (1887), which captures the movement and light of a flowing field of yellow irises. The paintings made during the years 1880-1910 capture the splendor and majesty of the lily ponds, flower beds, and grassy knolls of Giverny. These paintings are the majority of the exhibit, something I found to be very uplifting.

As time continued to pass, so did the eyesight of the great Monet. By 1911, there is a noticeable difference in his art. His use of accent colors became rare, as did the definition found in the painting. This can be seen in the comparison of his earlier work The Artist's Garden at Giverny (1900), which captures the movement and light of a bed of purple sage, with his later work Weeping Willow (1918), which portrays a very dark tree, with few highlights. Weeping Willow (1918) characterized Monet’s art between 1911 and 1920, as it was dark, and motionless. Though these paintings were not widely showcased in the exhibit, this section of the exhibit was very dark, dreary, and a disappointment due to the lack of life and color in the paintings.

By 1920, Monet’s paintings took a turn. In my opinion, it was a turn for the worse. By this time, Monet was almost totally blind. This was reflected in his paintings. The paintings at the conclusion of the exhibit looked as if a child had painted them and a blind man had picked out the colors. There were two 15 x 15 foot canvases displayed, each was covered in thick brush strokes of purple, black, burnt orange, and camouflage green. These paintings resembled those of Jackson Pollock, or that of a dirty public restroom floor. These ‘modern’ paintings by Monet are my least favorite; I found them slightly repulsive.

American paintings inspired by Monet or his art created at Giverny, are also included in this exhibit. This provides the viewer with an opportunity to compare and contrast the European impressionist movement, with the contemporary American impressionist movement. I enjoyed this opportunity, as it was impressive to see the myriad of ways Monet’s art has touched the creative world. One of my favorite contemporary pieces in the exhibit included the multimedia production (video with sound) made by Ohio artist Mary Lucier. This video production caught the feeling of Giverny, a feeling of serenity, of inner peace. This video was an inspiration, a true channel for the muse that flows from Giverny. Other modern examples were included, such as Yeardley Leonard’s In the Garden, a modern set of boxes which depicts the use of color, contrast, and composition in Monet’s pieces. These contemporary pieces helped to bring the true lure of Giverny alive for me, as well as hundreds of other museum goers.

In conclusion, this exhibit helps to bring alive the lure of Giverny for America’s younger generations, and communicates a sense of connectedness between creativity and nature. It was amazing to see Monet and his gardens as a muse to many artists. After viewing this exhibit with much contemplation, I believe it was a success. It communicated the feelings of Giverny, the inspiration of Monet, and inspired many minds to ponder the connection between art and nature.



For more information about the gardens of Giverny, the life and art of Claude Monet, or information about the Columbus Museum of Art, please visit www.columbusmuseum.org

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