Monet: The Early Years, "Profoundly Daring and Surprising"
Monet’s composition featured his future wife Camille Doncieux and friends Gustave Courbet, Frédéric Bazille and others having a picnic in the forest; Claude Monet, "Luncheon on the Grass, Central Panel," 1865–66. Oil on canvas, 248 x 217 cm (97 5/8 x 85 3/8 in.). Musée d’Orsay, Paris.
The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco are presenting Monet: The Early Years at the Legion of Honor. This will be the first major US exhibition devoted to the initial phase of Claude Monet's (French, 1840–1926) career. Through more than fifty paintings, the exhibition demonstrates the radical invention that marked the artist's development during the formative years of 1858 to 1872. In this period the young painter developed his unique visual language and technique, creating striking works that manifested his interest in painting textures and the interplay of light upon surfaces.
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for visitors to see Monet's mastery — before Impressionism," says Max Hollein, Director and CEO of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. "Monet is ubiquitous — people tend to think there is nothing more to know about him. This exhibition is revelatory."
With a selection of works gathered from some of the most important international collections — the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and other public and private collections worldwide — Monet: The Early Years authoritatively demonstrates the artist's early command of many genres, not only the landscapes for which he has become so renowned but also still lifes, portraits and genre scenes.
"The paintings from Monet's early career are profoundly daring and surprising," comments Esther Bell, Curator in Charge of European Paintings at the Fine Art Museums of San Francisco. "You see his mastery of light and texture everywhere – in his depictions of large and small moments, with friends and loved ones, in the solitude of forests and fields and in the quiet scenes of everyday life. Every stroke commands our attention."
This exhibition follows the Legion of Honor's strong history of showing highly important moments in French Impressionism. By following Monet before Impressionism, visitors can see the emergence of his style and how he helped shape the movement. Monet: The Early Years will be on view at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco from February 25 through May 29, 2017. This is the first of two exhibitions curated by George Shackelford, Deputy Director of the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas to examine the full artistic career of Claude Monet. The companion exhibition, Monet: The Late Years, will come to San Francisco in 2019.
Claude Monet, "Still Life with Flowers and Fruit," 1869. Oil on canvas, 100.3 x 81.3 cm (39 1/2 x 32 in.). The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
The presentation opens with the first painting Monet exhibited in public, View Near Rouelles (1858, Marunuma Art Park, Asaka, Japan). Created when the artist was just 18 years old, this work demonstrates his early mastery of oil painting through his brilliant handling of color and also prefigures his lifelong affinity for the subject of landscapes. From 1864 to 1868, he was simultaneously interested in capturing the geographies of his artistic life, from the cool, gray coast of Normandy to the warm, lush forest of Fontainebleau. The Pointe de La Hève at Low Tide (1865, Kimbell Art Museum), which Monet exhibited in the Paris Salon of 1865 to critical acclaim, exemplifies his talent for conveying the dramatic atmosphere of a Normandy beach. One of his finest treatments of the interior of the forest is An Oak at Bas-Bréau (The Bodmer) (1865, Private collection), his detailed study of a tree named for the Swiss painter Karl Bodmer. This work is being shown publicly for only the second time in this exhibition.
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