EXHIBITED in an idiosyncratic new exhibition space carved out of the National Gallery of Australia’s front exhibiting rooms, Claude Monet’s once-neglected masterpiece, “Impression, sunrise” forms the centrepiece to a new exhibition full of ideas.
The highlight of this winter exhibition, the radical 1872 work which gave Impressionism its name, saw a young Monet capturing a moment at the harbour in Le Havre From his hotel window, creating an ‘impression’ of the rising sun over the working port.
Undervalued at first, it was to change the way the world viewed art and is now a priceless possession of Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris, from which it is rarely loaned, even within the French capital.
On hand this morning (May 6) to join NGA director Nick Mitzevich, in unveiling the show to the media was Marianne Mathieu, the scientific director of Musée Marmottan, who outlined the historical narrative that drives the exhibition, which begins not with Monet but with atmospheric paintings by Turner, Delacroix, Courbet and Whistler, all of whose works hint at the coming techniques to be perfected by Monet and his contemporaries.
Ms Mathieu, who curated the exhibition, explained to those present that Musée Marmottan Monet is home to the largest collection of artworks by Monet in the world, including more than 100 paintings donated by Michel Monet, the artist’s son.
“It’s our 85th anniversary and we wanted to have a major exhibition overseas,” she explained, even though sending the central painting away for a full three months had raised eyebrows.
“We all think we know paintings through posters,” she added, “but people have to experience real paintings.” As well, both early Monets such as “Impression, sunrise” and his very late waterlily paintings were criticised and underrated by the artist’s contemporaries, so here was an opportunity to let people judge for themselves in this unique show.
The exhibition, organised by the Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris in association with the NGA and Art Exhibitions Australia, consists of 60 works and includes loans from the Musée Marmottan Monet, the Tate, London, other French institutions, as well as institutional and private collections in the USA, UK, Australia and NZ.
“Monet: Impression Sunrise,” National Gallery of Australia until September 1. Book at ticketek.com.au