Lecture: Time and Monet

Lecture: Time and Monet


– Good evening. Good evening. I’m Eric Lee, Director
of the Kimbell Art Museum and it’s a pleasure to welcome you to this evening’s lecture. The Kimbell has many
treasures and one of those, I think you’ll agree,
is George Shackleford. George has been Deputy Director of the Kimbell since January of 2012. He is one of the leading authorities on 19th and early 20th century French art, and among the exhibitions he
has curated at the Kimbell are “Faces of Impressionism: Portraits from the Musée d’Orsay,” “Gustave Caillebotte: The Painter’s Eye,” “Monet: The Early Years,” and
of course the exhibition we have on view upstairs,
“Monet: The Late Years.” And I’m pleased to report
that this exhibition is on track to having
the highest attendance of any exhibition we’ve had
at the Kimbell in two decades. (audience applauding) Before the Kimbell, George
was Chairman of European Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. And before that, Curator of European Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. He received his undergraduate
degree from Dartmouth College and went on to get a PhD in
the History of Art from Yale. He is an Officer in the
Order of Arts and Letters from the Republic of France. George will speak tonight
on “Time and Monet.” George. (audience applauding) – Thank you, Eric. And thank you all for coming this evening, it’s such a pleasure
to have everybody here on such a nice summer night. Matt, can you take the light down just a little bit on me? Thank you. I don’t need quite so much light going on. The subject of my talk tonight is inspired by the fact that the Kimbell owns two works of art that stretch across, or rather that are bookends to
either side of Monet’s career. And so, in our Monet collection, we embody the question of time. The work of art painted by a young man, “The Pointe de la Hève at Low
Tide” on the left hand side. And the “Weeping Willow,” 1918,
painted when Monet was 78 on the right hand side of the screen. So, to honor these paintings, we did, as you know, in
2016, “Monet: The Early Years,” an exhibition of more than 50 paintings that spanned from Monet’s
first exhibited work from 1858 up until his establishing of his residency at Argenteuil in 1871, excuse me 1872 when he was 31 years old. And with “Monet: The Late Years,” we begin with a group of works from around 1905, ’06, ’07, but we really get started
with this exhibition around 1914 when Monet
revolutionizes his style and take you to the end of his life when he dies in 1926. So, young man, old man,
and the question of time. We can measure time by the calendar. And here I show you two calendars, one from 1844 when Monet
was four years old. He was born in November of 1840. And one of the year of his death, 1926. One seems to be in a world of
almost free industrial state where the little , the railroad train from Paris to Rouen chugs along at the top of the calendar. The other seems to be
fully in modern times with a mother and child who
have taken the blue train from Paris down to the coast and they are on the Riviera
enjoying their summer holidays. Maybe not so much right now in France. (audience laughing) But the clock that I
propose to use tonight is a different kind of clock, and it’s one that is inspired by the fact that in the year before Monet was born, Louis Daguerre, who is shown
here in a self-portrait, invented, essentially, photography. And the first major
photograph that we have, there’s one other earlier
image, barely legible, but this is the first
really legible photograph made in 1839 of a street in Paris, the Boulevard du Temple. And it is a miraculous work,
one that was so surprising to anyone in the scientific
or artistic communities when it was announced by Daguerre. Within years, within moments, in fact, daguerreotypes were being
used all across the world, or all across the Western world, at least. And you could go and have
your photograph taken in Paris or in Boston or
in New York or Washington, in London, obviously, or in Berlin. At the same time that the
daguerreotypes were being made, which were unique works
of art that each one was its own separate photograph, a bit like a Polaroid in that sense, there were also works of art being made with a negative process, usually the negative made out of paper. And these were printed in large numbers in the 1840s as well. And here are just a few
of the early photographs, most of these by an artist named Bayard who was contemporary with
Monet’s very earliest years. Now, when you were thinking
about a landscape painting when you were the very young Monet, you would have thought
about an artist like Corot, and here is his Forest of
Fontainebleau which was exhibited at the Salon in the year of Monet’s birth. This is the kind of painting that was made through a process of Corot going out to the forest of
Fontainebleau, taking an easel, some paints with him, making
a few sketches out from life in the forest, coming back to his studio, and putting it all together
into a multifaceted composition, adding a few cows for local color, and sending this thing off to the Salon where it was received by one critic who said it looked as
if it had been painted with the mud scraped off
of the artist’s boots. (audience laughing) But simultaneously, artists
were in fact making photographs, and here is a daguerreotype
from about 1842 or three. And I compare it to the earliest work that we know that Monet ever exhibited, which was here in 2016 from Japan and it is painted by
the 17 year old Monet, an extraordinary accomplishment
for one so young. He painted it under the
tutelage of his friend Boudin, who was a specialist in
the paintings of beaches and took Monet under his
wing in his early years. The notion of this relationship
between the camera, which seems to record such a
very specific moment in time, and the painting, which
seems to have a somewhat more eternal or longer
lasting effect, shall we say, continues on through the
early years of Monet’s career. And Gustave Le Gray would photograph in the forests of
Fontainebleau at the same place that Monet would be
painting in the mid-1860s. Now, I don’t mean to suggest that there’s any real relationship between Le Gray’s photograph
and Monet’s painting. The fact that they represent the same spot has to do with the fact that this was a prime spot for photo taking. This would be the place where you stopped to make your selfie in
2019 if you were going through the forest on the paved road that had been there
since the 17th century. This view, one of many
that was painted by artists in the forest of Fontainebleau, not only Monet but his contemporaries, Sisley or even Daubigny,
the slightly older Daubigny, was the kind of sort of
event that you would need to go through as a
painter, in Monet’s case, preparing to paint the
big “Luncheon on the Grass,” which I’ll show you a moment later towards the end of this talk, that was in the exhibition in 2016. Still, what you could do with a brush and what you could do with a lens are two fundamentally different things. In the 19th century, in Monet’s youth, the camera was incapable of
capturing the kinds of effects of color and particularly of nuanced light that an artist like Corot could capture when he painted the Pointe de la Hève at Saint-Adresse near Honfleur. Rather in the 1830s, you
see how different it is from what Gustave Le Gray could do when he turned his cameras to the same stretch of beach and
promontory in the 1850s. Corot was able to bring
in the nuances of color, of light, simply things that the camera was incapable of capturing
with very great sensitivity in the early days of
the photographic medium. In order to get an image like this one, for instance, Gustave Le Gray was forced to use two different negatives
because if he took the image of the water, the sky
would be blanched out. If he took the image of just the clouds, the water wouldn’t have
had time to register. So he, in fact, used double negatives and printed the sky from one
and the sea from the other. That’s not what an artist
like Monet would have to do. Monet, in fact, would
take a smaller canvas than the Kimbell’s example, he would take a smaller
canvas actually out onto the rocky beach, set up his easel, paint a relatively small painting, let’s say maybe 28 inches
wide out on the shale, and then come back to
his studio and enlarge it by four times to something
that would be 48 or 50 inches wide across, and turn
it into a Salon picture, which is exactly what he did
in 1865 with these paintings. He paired it with another view, now at the Norton Simon
Museum in Pasadena. And these two were sent to the Salon of 1865 and were his first foray into the world of Parisian art circles. They were what got him recognized first, he in fact was mentioned
by a couple of reviewers, which was an extraordinary
thing for a debutante. And he was therefore
launched in his career and ready to move forward. I mentioned to you the kind of sketch that Monet used to paint
the Kimbell picture, here’s the one that he used to paint the Norton Simon painting. You see how different the sketch
is from the final version. And from the same vantage point, which was out on a jetty
projecting out into the harbor, where he could stand and paint, he didn’t have to set
up his easel in a boat, he could, in fact, paint another picture, making the, at slightly lower tide moment where the fishermen are
tugging a boat into shore and where the time of day
is a very different one. Now, we don’t think that Monet was necessarily painting
out of doors at twilight. In fact, I think he
probably began this picture based on the other one at the right. And using this pastel,
which he had actually made on site, perhaps not even in Honfleur, where the picture is set,
but perhaps any other site. And this notation of
the sunset over the sea gave him the wherewithal to
paint the picture at the right. And you’ll see it’s an
exquisitely observed image of how the clouds float over the sea, how the sky opens up and the
setting sun comes through them, how the light of the setting sun picks up the undersides of the clouds as the sun goes down towards the horizon. And it’s an extraordinarily beautifully conceived small pastel. It is really capturing a very
particular moment in time and using a medium, the pastel medium, which was consisted of dry, chalky pastels that he could simply put onto the canvas, carry around with him, carry very easily out into the landscape, and to set something down
really quite quickly, much more quickly than
he would be able to do with the brush and the oil paint. Now, when Monet turned
to painting in town, he was also interested
in a question of time. And here, the issue was
establishing himself as an artist of his time,
of the modern moment, and very much of the present day. He was trying, in paintings like these, the three that were on view here in 2016, the Church of Saint-Germain
l’Auxerrois at the left from the Berlin Museum, The Quai du Louvre from
The Hague at the center, and the so-called “Garden of the Infanta” or Garden Of The Princess from the Oberlin Museum at the right. In these paintings, Monet
was really setting himself up in the same mood as
Manet, who had painted the Tuileries gardens just
a few years previously. And it was in fact in the summer of 1867 that Monet, or the spring of 1867, rather, in advance of the opening of the Universal Exposition of 1867, shown here by Manet, that Monet set out to paint these views of Paris, the first views he had in
fact painted in the city. Now, in painting a picture
like Saint Germain l’Auxerrois, Monet was depicting one of the sort of great Gothic monuments of Paris. It’s not Notre Dame, but it
was in fact a medieval church. Close upon the facade of the Louvre, he was actually standing on a balcony outside the second floor of
the Louvre and looking out, not at the works of art
that were in the Louvre, but looking out onto the
street outside the museum, turning his back, as it
were, on the museum itself. And he was not concentrating on detail in the way that an
artist like Henri le Secq had done when he photographed
a Gothic cathedral here about a decade earlier. Which is not to say that
he wasn’t interested in the photograph. And here I show you one of many views of Saint Germain l’Auxerrois
that was taken from the same vantage point, or almost the same
vantage point that Monet was standing in when
he painted the church. I believe that it was a
photograph like this one, not necessarily this
very one but one like it, that Monet used to set up the composition, because here I have
overlaid the photograph, the brown part, on top
of Monet’s painting, and you’ll see how they line
up almost line for line. I think Monet used a photograph
because it was thought to be so accurate and was, for him, a kind of shortcut to
the part of this painting that he was the least interested in, which is to say setting up the exact lines of the architecture. That was the part that was almost an architectural draftsman’s duty. And so I believe he used a photograph to get himself to where he
could paint the exquisite light moving across the surface and
focus on interesting details that weren’t captured in the photograph. Like in the detail that I
show you here at the right, think something that
looks a bit like an apple or a cherry painted on
the side of a building. When we had this painting here, I was looking at it carefully
with a friend from Washington and I decided that it was in
fact not an apple or a cherry, but an artist’s palette and a brush. And that perhaps the
words, the letters over it, were the letters Colin, C-O-L-I-N, or in French Colin, which
in fact was the name of an art supplier that
had recently located to that very spot. And here is the bottom of the sign, and you see it says “Chevalets, Toiles,
Palettes,” and and fine colors, so
easels, canvases, palettes, and fine colors on the bottom of the sign. It may interest you to
know that this location had until a few years
earlier been the site of the famous Cafe Momus,
the Cafe Momus that is in the great Puccini opera “La Boheme” where the Bohemians gather
and indeed did gather in the area around the Louvre
in the Romantic Period. But what Monet was really trying to do is to capture the fragmentation of light as it moved across all
of these little details. And that was the sort of lesson
that he wanted to take away from painting an architectural moment, even if he was in fact stressing
all of the contemporaneous, or rather contemporary
details like the fashions of the women and the men
walking down the street, the soldiers versus the perhaps
even streetwalkers there, the children, the
workers of various kinds, and the line of hansom cabs waiting to take you wherever you wanted to go. It’s the extraordinary
speed with which Monet was working at this period that brings us back again to the question of time. Because the youthful Monet was learning what to do and how to do it
at an extraordinary pace. It was a remarkable development, and those of you who saw
“Monet: The Early Years” will remember how with every picture, it seemed that he was
learning something new and that he was able
to achieve a new goal, to reach a new standard for himself. And for instance, in the three paintings that I show you here, “The Green Wave” from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the beautiful study of the sea from the Ordrupgaard Museum in Copenhagen, or the Clark Art Institute’s beautiful boat headed out to sea. You see something of the great skill with which Monet was able
to paint at this stage. It is a relatively early stage
when he’s still in his 20s. And he’s very much inspired
by two great artists of his time, the slightly older Courbet, sort of half a generation older than he, and again the
ever-so-slightly older Manet, both of whom were at the
sort of the top of their form in the mid-1860s and who, at the time of the Universal Exhibition of 1867, would put on simultaneous one man shows. From Courbet, Monet had
absorbed the lessons of how to paint the sea,
great lessons in color, in the use of a palette knife
in a kind of tough painting that Courbet had made so famous. You can see Courbet’s wave, for instance, where the foam at the top
of the wave is painted with white paint and the
knife rather than the brush. Similarly, in the foam beneath the boat on the Clark’s Monet on the left, you see Monet actually
using the palette knife very much in imitation of Courbet. And from Manet, he had
learned certain lessons about flattening and how
to exploit the tension between the flat
silhouette and the creation or the suggestion of deep space as you see in the Clark
picture and in one of Manet’s scenes of the Kearsarge and the Alabama, the Kearsarge is the boat in the distance which engaged in a battle
off the Normandy coast during the American Civil War. And Monet’s boat, like Manet’s, is a kind of an idea of a boat. Not so much a very
convincing, necessarily, three dimensional boat, but
in fact a kind of stylized and very much influenced by Japanese art and the kind of sense of taking something, flattening it, and then applying it to the surface of the canvas. So in these three paintings, you saw Monet moving fast, fast, fast. The camera is still there. And in a photograph like this one, again by Gustave le Gray,
probably the greatest landscape photographer of
this moment in French history, we see Le Gray turning to
photograph the same lighthouse at Honfleur that Monet would
paint for the Salon of 1868. This very large painting
was refused by the Salon, and I think probably rightly so, because it seems to be
a complete mishmash. There really are times when
you cannot put a crowd scene, a stormy coast line, and a rainbow into the same picture
(audience laughing) and have it really succeed. But while this painting was
rejected, another was accepted. And unfortunately, we know
it only from a little cartoon that you see here reproduced
in a satirical journal that was sort of lampooning the paintings that were seen at the Salon. And these were extremely
popular in the days before photography was used in the press. These little sketches
reproduced lithographically or sometimes by wood engraving
in the daily newspapers were ways of keeping the
public who was very interested in what was going on in the world of art, a way of keeping them up to
date on who was doing what, what was being said
about which work of art, and which were the best and which were the funniest and the worst. And in this case, I’m
afraid that the artist, excuse me the artist and the poet, probably the same person,
are very much disapproving of Monet’s painting, which must have had something of the flatness that we see in the Manet that I
showed you a moment ago. And the title of Monet’s painting was “Leaving the Port,”
“La sortie du port.” And I made a kind of free
translation of the little poem that goes beneath, my
translation being all in English won’t have the shock of the
French followed by English lines but it goes something
like, “There was a vessel, large and stout, painted
well by Mr. Monet, which steamed apace and seemed to shout go ahead, time is money.”
(audience laughing) The first time that the
words Monet and money were actually, the pun was recognized. It would not be the last
time in Monet’s career that the homonym of his
name and the English word would be used to funny effect. This painting is lost
now, we’ve never seen it since it was seized by Monet’s creditors in the summer of 1868. And it might appear someday, and if so, I will hope to
be the person who finds it. (audience laughing) So here we have the young Monet as we’ve come now to admire and know him, and he is at this point really
the accomplished painter that he will remain for
the rest of his life. Still an artist who was constantly seeking to evolve the way he works, to take the ideas that
are constants in his art and to see how he can apply
them with changing style and changing subject matter. And this will last for the next 40 odd or 50 years of his career. In a work like “The Magpie,”
this extraordinary work, perhaps one of the most beautiful
in “Monet: The Early Years,” we see him seizing on an
incredibly beautifully bleak day, a day where it’s obviously
very cold outside, the snow has not begun to melt, the snow that has fallen on
the trees in the distance still sits atop the limbs like icing on the outspread branches. And he is seizing the moment when a magpie lights on the fence and
sits there for a moment checking out where there
might be some food, perhaps, where there might be a
watch or a ring to collect. And that beautiful spot of
black against the wonderful symphony of white colors that surround it is that sense of picking a moment and telling you this is a particular time. And yet, you could stand
there and the painting would stay the same and
the same and the same. Similarly, the moment when his wife turns to look back at
him as he is standing within their rented house,
kind of a grim house, probably they didn’t
have much money at all. She is in her semi-fashionable red cape and under an umbrella that is topped with little bits of snow. She is standing outside and turns to look back at her
husband through the window and he seizes on that moment as the moment at which
he is going to paint her. Clearly, we, well I hope that she didn’t actually stand outside and pose for any great length of time for him, but he’s bound to have
had her go and stand there so that he could remember
what she was like and what the, the way that
the light fell on her, on her fur-trimmed coat
and on the umbrella and on the leaves beyond her. This extraordinary painting,
which was the cover, actually, of “Monet: The Early Years” from the Cleveland Museum of Art, is one of those that expresses, I think, a very clear moment, not
only in Monet’s development as an artist, but also
in his emotional life, for Camille Monet was to
die about a decade later. Monet could seize on that notion
of time and paint a picture in which you can almost tell
me what time of day it is. You know that this is the morning light. There’s no way of mistaking that this would be afternoon light. It feels too cold, too clean,
too chilly to be the evening. And we see people beginning
their day rather than ending it, the nursemaid and the little child walking across the bridge, the light
streaming past the trees in the distance, casting these
long shadows over the bridge. People maybe perhaps going to work early on a late spring or early summer morning. And when he moves to Holland, Monet will also be interested
in the hours of the day, painting a similar scene
in the harbor at Zaandam, both in bright perhaps
noontime sunlight on the left and as twilight begins
to fall onto the right. These are emblematic of
the kinds of pictures that were well known both in the print, in the world of printmaking
since the Renaissance, and in painting, particularly
in the 18th century, where artists like Vernet, Joseph Vernet that I show you here, would
paint cycles of the day. And I show you two from a series of four, this is morning and night. But Monet, when he painted
the daytime and evening scenes at Zaandam, though he
didn’t create them as a set, he nonetheless was
responding to this tradition in French painting of
painting the times of the day. And sometimes they would be occupied, excuse me, they would be
coordinated with the occupations that happened at different
times of the day. When Monet was in Argenteuil, in fact, in one series of paintings
he seems very explicitly to have set out to chart
the times of the day, perhaps not painting the
series in any specific order, but nonetheless when we line them up, we get a very strong
sense of the setting sun and the light changing
as the sun moves down and to the west, that is to say
to the right of the picture. He’s looking up at the
little pseudo chateau that you see in the distance
which stood right by a factory so the tower of the chateau
and the factory chimney are silhouetted against the setting sun. When later, in 1872, in November, in fact, and at 7:35 on the morning of, I believe it’s the 9th of
November, I’m not quite positive, Monet painted the picture
“Impression Sunrise.” Of course, that’s much too precise, but this is what a
meteorologist from Texas Tech has decided.
(audience laughing) And he has done it through very
careful study of the tides. We know that the tide must be high for the boats that are in the distance to be so close in to the harbor. We know at what times the sun rose, we know what building
Monet was painting from. So we could, this scientist has been able to suggest that it might have been painted at a very particular time
of day on a particular date. What I would say is that
it is about sunrise. And so, you would not be surprised to know that there is a painting
about night to go with it. So that the times of
day, sunrise and evening, are expressed in this, an
artificial pair nonetheless, but nonetheless paintings
of the same moment, of the same scale, meant perhaps to cover all the bases of the hours of the day. Now, we talked a moment
ago about the seasons, and as Monet paints the times of the day, he also paints the times of the year. And here I show you the
road outside Vétheuil, where he moved with his
family in 1877, I think, and where he painted for several years before he moved to Giverny in 1883. These two views are the same
stretch of road in Vétheuil, were painted obviously in the wintertime and in the spring, and
they are just a pair of many such studies of
different times of year that Monet would paint
throughout his career, whether at Argenteuil, at Vétheuil, or at Giverny as he later did in the 1880s and on into the end of his life. Now, seasons are part
of the time spectrum, the times of day, but there’s also the question of the more important
geological time issues. And in his paintings of Etretat, Monet was able not only to
study issues of the rocks and their sort of almost
prehistoric shapings, these extraordinary rock formations painted here on the coast of Normandy where this amazing sort of
natural bridge structure stood and still stands. A village in Monet’s day,
composed largely of fishermen who sailed out from Etrétat
to earn their living in the channel waters, now
of course a tourist town where you can go and
spend a very jolly weekend at a hotel overlooking the beach
and have quite a nice time. But Monet was there at all
times and in all weathers. He complained to Alice, his companion, that he was drenched
to the skin having painted too close to the water,
perhaps, for an afternoon, and here Monet is painting that same grouping of fishermen’s huts.
These are actually boats that have been thatched
and serving as dwellings. And then the actual working fishing boats pulled up around them here on a day when you would not want
to be going out to sea, so windy and stormy it is. Or in another touristic photograph, this one, a smaller photograph from, probably from about the 1880s
when Monet is painting there, you see the rock arch
and the so-called Needle, the Aiguille, the tall rock formation standing up from the water. You’re seeing it now from the
other side of the painting, excuse me, of the formation, and you see there the
issues of the stratification of these rocks that he was painting. Sometimes he paints them
very, very deliberately. You can see the layers of time
reflected in the actual site with the striping of the rock,
the sedimentary formations. And he does stress this
in paintings like this one where you are able to get a sense that there’s something kind
of ancient and for all time in these depictions of
these remarkable formations. But I would call to your
attention another factor, for as in the beach scene
I showed you a moment ago where the water was far too
rough and far too high up on the beach for you to want
to go out in it very far, here we have a situation
where we’re looking at this formation at low tide, that’s what the photograph says. In fact, I’ll go back to it. The Aiguille and the Porte d’Aval, that’s the name of the
rock formation there, “Marée Basse at low tide.” And this is important because
if you went to this place and didn’t manage to, if
you tried to walk to it and didn’t manage to have
a boat to pick you up, you could in fact be stranded there because when the time came up, obviously you’ll see the water line goes much, much higher than
where Monet is standing. And he probably had a
boat like the one you see in between the needle and the rock bridge, the boat that took him hither and thither from this bit of rocky shore. He would have had to paint there probably very quickly and
then take this painting back to the studio to finish it there under more comfortable circumstances. The notion of painting time, then, is one that in the 1880s and 1890s becomes almost an obsession for Monet. And we see as his series paintings develop over the course of the 1880s and 1890s, that it is really one
of the central themes by which the groups are unified. Here among the first of these
series paintings from Antibes, you may remember these from
Monet and the Mediterranean about 20 years ago, he shows different times
of day on the same tree. Here in the Creuse Valley in 1889, the setting sun, the
changing position of the sun over this rocky cliff and a
valley of a rushing river below. In the Poplars, the series from 1892, you can almost chart the hours of the day like it was a sundial on the trees and the sort of meandering
pathway along the banks of the Epte River near Giverny
where he lived at this point. And of course in the great
series of the cathedrals, which date from the mid-1890s, again the notion of the sun coming up from behind the cathedral and then moving towards Monet so that
little by little by little, the facade of the cathedral
would be bathed in sunlight. And the changing light of the hours, the changing conditions of temperature, humidity, the fogginess or
lack thereof in the atmosphere, all of these elements
were chronicled by Monet as part of the sort of unifying
force of the series group. What Monet could do which
the camera could not – because I want to remind
you that the camera is our sort of time clock here – what Monet could do that the
camera could not in the 1890s was to suggest something more
poetic about the subject, about the cathedral, than
the camera was able to do. The camera couldn’t catch color. It couldn’t suggest, by
virtue of the texture of the paint itself,
something of the quality of the stone that Monet was looking at, sort of crumbly medieval
stone of that great cathedral facade at Rouen with its
many, many intricate carvings that were blended together by Monet into a kind of wonderfully
textural pattern. That’s something that
the camera would not do for the cathedral at Rouen. And the camera was something that, with increasing frequency,
had played a role in Monet’s life and in
fact becomes a kind of, again a kind of clock or reflection, kind of calendar of his
life from the 1890s onwards. Here we believe we see Monet
in shadow at the bottom left leaning over his relatively
newly planted pond in which water lilies are growing. This has to be after 1894 when Monet first planted the water
lilies in the pond. And probably in the last years of the ’90s or maybe the very first
years of the early century. Taking a photograph
with the Brownie camera that his son Jean had
obtained and of which he was to become a great practitioner
in the years that followed. And again, the notion of
times, the notion of seasons, the notion of changing light,
this is all what Monet’s works of the early years of
the century are about. And in the exhibition upstairs,
we have five great paintings from the water lily cycle that Monet began in 1904 and which would
extend until 1908. And we have the painting at
the, these are all details from three versions of
the same composition. The one that we have upstairs is the one that’s in the detail on the far right here from the Denver Art Museum. But we see him moving
through the same composition through different hours of the day. Monet liked to rise
early to begin to paint, then perhaps to come
back and paint the garden again in the afternoon. Noontime was not his favorite hour because he felt the light was too bright. And we see him again and again
through all of these images dealing with the times of the day. The photograph standing
in his studio in 1913 with works from the
1890s hanging on the wall and that beautiful work from
the 1860s in the background. I would note that this photograph is taken after the death
of his second wife, and you don’t see the
paintings of his first wife in photographs while his
second wife is living. Camille comes out again towards
the end of Monet’s life. These artists, Monet, Degas, Renoir, age before our eyes. And what’s remarkable
is that these artists who were born with the
invention of photography live into the time of the film. So we have Sacha Guitry
standing on the boulevard outside Degas’ house, catching Degas, do you see him there with
the bowler hat and the cane? This is on a loop because
Guitry could only get about 10 seconds of Degas
before Degas passed him. Some people think Degas
doesn’t see Guitry, I think he sees him completely because everybody else does.
(audience laughing) This is a picture of an old man, the man who would paint again and again works like these, including this one which is in a Fort
Worth private collection and will be in “Renoir:
The Body, the Senses” coming up in October. Or Renoir, the old man
whose hands are so arthritic that he can’t hold the brush
except by having his hands bound up with linen tape so that the brush can be stuck into his crippled fingers where he then valiantly keeps on painting. This is from 1915 and he
would die four years later. But meanwhile, he would have
painted works like these. Extraordinary images of the female nude. Again, all of these coming up in “Renoir: The Body, The Senses.” And Monet in his garden standing with Sacha Guitry
in front of the house. We see them talking,
perhaps about garden plants because Monet was advising Guitry on what he should plant in his own garden. Occasionally you’ll see,
do you see the little dog coming down the pathway at them? Some of you who were here
for Robert Gordon’s lecture will remember that he
told us that the dogs in fact belonged to
Guitry and not to Monet. Then we go to the garden,
to the Japanese bridge where we see Monet
standing beside the pond and applying paint to his canvas. A longer version of this is
in the exhibition upstairs. And he’s making paintings like this one, giant 6 and 1/2 foot tall
paintings, two meters high, which he will combine
into longer compositions still in the massive studio
that he builds in 1915 in which he is about to
undertake the great work of the end of his life. He’ll also turn to the garden itself to the not just the pond but
the other features of garden, like the Japanese bridge,
for a series of paintings that seem, like the others,
to chart the times of day, perhaps the seasons, and also
the state of Monet’s eyes as he is again and again
dealing with the problems of his cataracts and how to triumph over the affliction of
his diminishing eyesight. In a work like the Kimbell’s
“Weeping Willow” here at right, we see him looking back to the
very beginning of his career where he had painted this old oak in the Forest of Fontainebleau, which in both cases he comes to personify, or in fact the tree comes
to personify the artist. The old oak for the young man, the craggy willow tree
for the 78 year old Monet who is here mourning also
the deaths of World War I that have been happening all around him as he painted in the garden at Giverny. And here the series that
you have in the exhibition. Painting throughout the
years in the studio, painting pictures that
get bigger and bigger like the one that you
see at the exhibition from the Toledo Museum of Art. Not the picture behind
Monet in this photograph, but one very much like the
one you saw a moment ago that ends up at the very left edge of a composition in the Orangerie. Painting the great picture from St. Louis that we have in the exhibition upstairs, the largest painting in the show which is the centerpiece of a triptych. Unfortunately, we weren’t
able to assemble the whole, but St. Louis was willing
to lend us the centerpiece. Which was meant to be in
the very first iteration of Monet’s great water
lily cycle installation here, from 1919, the first design. It would be rejected and
eventually we would end up with the two oval rooms that
you see in the Orangerie now. You’ll see it again at
the end of this talk. And the wisteria that was to
have been at the cornice above. We see Monet working
through the same composition and painting it, the three large bands are the same two compositions
by Monet painted in 1917, photographed again in 1921, and then again in the state that they’re
in sometime before 1926. We see Monet continuing to paint, spending time on these pictures, revising their surfaces,
transforming them from one idea to a slightly different idea to perhaps a slightly
different idea again. And we don’t know how many
layers of paint there may be beneath the surface of
a canvas like these. Time spent at the garden with family, with Mr. Ryerson who came from Chicago to try to buy all of the
water lilies from Monet. He wouldn’t sell them, even
for millions of dollars. He would sell work to Kōjirō Matsukata, the man who bought our painting,
Japanese industrialist, a shipbuilder who formed
one of the greatest early collections of
the late work of Monet. He was visited by artists
like Vuillard and Roussel. At the time that he had to
undergo a cataract operation, he was not a particularly good patient, but he wore these smoky glasses
for many months afterwards, including when he received a visit from his friend Pierre Bonnard. Or Gustave Geffroy, the writer. Or, here seen from the
back, Georges Clémenceau, the great Premier of France, who had been his friend since the 1860s. A visitor in 1920 on the
occasion of Monet’s 80th birthday was shown to the second studio, which Monet used as a kind
of gallery of his own work where he was able to indicate
the Dejeuner sur l’herbe, the Luncheon on the Grass from 1866, the beautiful portrait of Camille, again – both of these paintings
representing Camille. A relatively recent
work from the 19 aughts, probably not the very
painting that we have in the exhibition, but
one very close to it. Or here, the view of
Monet’s house from 1913, or the Kimbell’s own great “Weeping Willow.” Excuse me (coughing). Sorry. By this time, we find Monet
the master of his garden, surveying this beautiful property which he has perfected over the years. Photographed here (coughing),
excuse me, in 1922, the garden from the same year. And a beautiful portrait of Monet from the very last years of his life. Excuse me, I have to
have a drink of water. I feel like Marco Rubio.
(audience laughing) I won’t stretch like he did. And then we have Monet’s death in 1926. Here’s his funeral with Clémenceau
with the walrus mustache standing in the center of the mourners. And shortly thereafter, the
institution of his two rooms at the Orangerie of the Tuileries. Here’s opening day, Clémenceau
again standing there, again the walrus mustache. And the rooms as they appear nowadays with this great cycle of decorations that explore the times of the day through a group of compositions that stretch over two gigantic oval rooms. But what happened to all the paintings that were left behind with Monet? Here he is standing towards (coughing), I beg your pardon. Standing towards the end of his life in that wonderful studio that was actually attached to the house. Here it is probably just after he died with an extraordinary
number of Japanese bridges and weeping willows hanging on the walls, works of art that suddenly
had almost no value. Because the late work of
Monet, after Monet died, was hardly of interest to anyone. Bonnard might have taken an interest because when he had seen a work like this in Monet’s studio in the 19 teens, he might have learned
a lesson for a painting that he would make two
years after Monet died. The beautiful picture that we’ve acquired last year for the Kimbell Art Museum. It wasn’t until the 1940s that the time had come for Monet’s late work. And the signal event
is the 1949 exhibition at the Kunsthalle in Basel. Here’s a picture hanging
in that exhibition. And it’s an important painting because you’re gonna see it on
a couple of occasions again. There it is in a color
photograph taken from a magazine. And here is the next big
exhibition at the Kunsthalle Basel which is of American painting,
this from 1950, I think, where you see works by Rothko on the left and by Barnett Newman,
excuse me Rothko on the right and Barnett Newman on the left with an attentive audience
of intellectual Swiss people. And there was this work of art which then was purchased by MOMA. Purchased by Alfred Barr for
the Museum of Modern Art, this painting was the first great work of Monet’s late years to
be seen in North America. And it was heralded by Life Magazine, among other things, who began
to talk of a Monet revival. With artists like, excuse me, suddenly blanking on
his name, John Schueler. A woman named, oh I’m sorry
I can’t say her name again, and then below, I’m
blanking on all these names, I’m terribly sorry. Sam
Francis and Riopelle below. And this work seems to have exerted an influence on these painters, here Schueler, here’s the lower left hand,
lower right hand corner on the second page (laughing). And then I think also Milton Resnick, who in this work, which
is at the collection of the Fort Worth Museum of Modern, the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, some 20 feet long, seems
to have been responding, I think, very directly to the experience of seeing this work by Monet, which was likewise about 20 feet long. But this work is lost
to us because in 1959, there was a fire at the
Museum of Modern Art and this painting was destroyed. In its place, the Museum of Modern Art bought the great triptych
that you see there now. And in the 19, in 1970,
they organized an exhibition of Monet,”Seasons and Moments” to celebrate Monet’s series paintings and ending with four of the paintings that we have in our exhibition here. In the later 1970s, the
really important development was that Gerald and Florence Van der Kemp, a Frenchmen and his American-born wife led the charge for the
restoration of Giverny. And with funding mostly
from American sources, they were able to restore
the garden which had been abandoned and allowed to
be overgrown and unkempt. The Van der Kemps raised money from people like the
Annenbergs, Lila Wallace, and the gardens reopened in 1980 as brilliant and beautiful as
they were in Monet’s lifetime. Here you see Monet standing
in the great central walkway, and the view of the walkway today, and the Japanese garden
with the wisteria bridge. Speaking of Japan, we
might say that works, as my friend Marine Kisiel
argued when she spoke here at the opening weekend, that works like Tadao Ando’s
room for the group of Monet water lilies that was acquired
by the Benesse Foundation, that this is the successor
to Monet’s notions of decoration and of painting
vast beautiful compositions. Or that perhaps even better, James Turrell’s
all-encompassing environments where you are subsumed in color might be the extension of
Monet’s ideas into our own time. But I want to end tonight with the work of three artists who
are in fact turning back to Giverny in particular
and are bringing the work of Monet into a new kind of focus and a new, I don’t
want to say a new relevance, but a new, different appreciation. The first of them is E.V. Day, the woman that you see
here, who’s best known for her installations of exploding gowns. Here are two bridal gowns
that she has ripped apart and stretched as if they
are in fact exploding. They’re stretched on
lines of monofilament. She received a fellowship
to work in Giverny, and the first series of
works that she exhibited based on this fellowship
were pressed flowers that she had picked from the garden, pressed between sheets
of paper, then scanned, and using Photoshop, made to
be exactly symmetrical images. These are all the insides of
flowers like clematis or peony. They’re quite large, as you see. And I think very much expressive
of her feminist approach to, because all of these
are flowers, in fact, and therefore the seed part of the, what’s the word I’m looking for? The generational works that would carry through the world of plant life. And then she decided to do another series in which she employed the help
of her friend Kembra Pfahler, who is a kind of performance artist who got dressed up in a wig,
painted her body red and pink, and posed in Monet’s garden in a work that was exhibited in New York in 2010. And as Ken Johnson said, “The whole production is a one liner, but one with rich
psychological implications. As the anti-Femlin, Ms.
Pfahler simultaneously embodies and satirizes a stereotype
of ferocious female energy, one that Western society has
both demonized and reinforced.” She is, as he said, an “infernal
interloper in Monet’s Eden.” Another artist who has
approached the work of Monet is Abelardo Morell, who’s a photographer – all of these are photographers – A photographer who’s best
known for his pinhole camera obscura images
like the one of Venice in which he goes to a room
overlooking the Grand Canal, blackens the windows,
introduces a tiny hole into the black covering,
and lets the world outside be projected on the opposite
wall opposite the window, and then he photographs that projection. At Giverny, he rigged up
a camera with an oculus in the top of a tent-like structure. And within the tent, he would
photograph the projection of the world outside the
tent onto the pavement below. So what we’re looking at
here is the gravel pathway of Monet’s garden with
the image of the pathway being projected upon it and photographed by the camera looking down on the soil. These works, the texture
comes from the gravel itself, the image comes from the
light outside the tent. And he took the same camera to Étretat and did the same thing there
on the coast of Normandy. And then, inspired by
the Rouen cathedrals, here as shown in Paris, he goes to Rouen, and from a window,
using a window in a room just opposite the
cathedral, allows the room to become the projector
of the camera obscura for the notion of the cathedral itself being projected into the interior, evoking the work of
Monet while he does it. And then he goes and
photographs the actual surfaces of paintings by Monet in
different light conditions. Here, three views of the same
painting from the MFA Boston. And finally, I want to close with the work of an artist named Mark Fox, who has really taken the notion of time and the depiction of time
into a new dimension, literally in a way. Because Mark Fox, like E.V. Day, received a fellowship to work in Giverny, and he was given a key to the garden. He could go in at any time of the day. The only rule was that he
could not go into the pond. Well now, Mark Fox’s works
were mostly wall constructions or hanging sculptures
like this on the left, on the right, rather,
or drawings like the one you see on the left-hand side. And so, he did what every
good artist would do, and he disobeyed.
(audience laughing) And he went into the pond and
he began to photograph there. Now, I’m going to close this talk now, but I invite you to
watch Mark Fox’s video. It goes on for 20 minutes, so many of you will have to leave. But for those who want to stay, it will go on for 20 minutes. I’ll be leaving myself.
(audience laughing) But before we start
the video and this work that is literally done in time, I want to thank you again
for coming to hear me tonight and thanks for your support
of the Kimbell Art Museum, it means the world to us. Thank you very much.
(audience applauding)

Leave a Reply