March 28, 2017

NEW BOOK: PAINTER OF LIGHT: MODERN ART BEGAN WITH MONET

Presenting new perspectives of work by the artist who painted Water Lilies, Claude Monet: Monet – Light, Shadow, and Reflection is a catalogue devoted to the painter’s famous world of pictures. Yet, it also features darker motifs. It’s being released to coincide with the exhibition of Monet’s work at the Fondation Beyeler in Riehen, and it contains many masterpieces whose visions of nature and landscape continue to influence us to this day.

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“The way the world looks to us would alter drastically if we were to succeed in viewing the spaces in between things as things themselves.” These words, written by the philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty, get to the heart of the works Monet (1840-1926) produced in the years after 1880, up to the beginning of the twentieth century.

Although most usually tend to focus on the painter’s early and late phases, this catalogue, Monet – Light, Shadow, and Reflection, turns to examine the development between these periods, using more than 180 illustrations and 60 works of art as examples. After the death of his first wife, Camille, in 1879, Monet embarked upon a reorientation phase. His time as a trailblazing Impressionist was over; his increasing economic independence made it possible for him to travel more frequently. Monet’s works of art became more personal, and detached themselves from the “Impressionist” style.In the wake of his exploration of “light, reflection, and shadow” as leitmotifs, Monet began to pursue the theme of the painted image itself in his art: “He was not as interested in the motif as he was in what happened between him and the motif,” explained his stepson Jean Hoschedé.

The painter experimented with plays of light and color throughout the seasons. Using reflections and shadows, he succeeded in creating magical atmospheres. Recurring subjects and places include landscapes along the Mediterranean, the wild Atlantic coasts, rivers, and meadows full of flowers, along with haystacks, water lilies, catherals, and bridges.Even Monet’s first oil painting featured poplars reflected in the water, and hence, the phase of his career presented in this book is also representative of the French painter’s entire ouevre. Broken down into themes, Monet – Light, Shadow, and Reflection is like a sophisticated journey through Monet’s world of pictures, from the Seine to the Normandy coast and Brittany, all the way to Waterloo Bridge in London and Monet’s painterly exploration of his own garden in Givenchy.

Essays by Maria Becker, Gottfried Boehm, Ulf Küster, Philippe Piguet, Hannah Rocchi, and James H. Rubin accompany the various stages, identifying and defining them.

The release of Monet – Light, Shadow, and Reflection celebrates the twentieth anniversary of the Fondation Beyeler, which has devoted a grand anniversary show to the “painter of light,” which opens on January 22 and can be seen in Riehen, Basel, until May 2017.

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