Monet in Sydney


Lily Pond and Water Garden, Monet's Garden, Giverny, France

Sydney, Sunday

Clive and I went to “Monet and the Impressionists,” an exhibit at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, a few days ago. About ninety per cent of the paintings are from the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) in Boston, with others from Australian art gallery collections.

This is the last week of the exhibit, and the line was a mile long. I’d seen the MFA paintings before, and we almost left because, as I said to Clive, “we can see so much Monet and Impressionist art in Paris.” Among the places I love most in and around Paris are the Musée Marmottan, Musée d’Orsay, the Orangerie (Musée de l’Orangerie), and Monet’s garden at Giverny.

We stuck out the long line and were glad we did. We don’t know when we’ll get to Boston on a U.S. visit, and liked seeing the MFA collection as well as the additions from within Australia.

Art Appreciation

I’ve never taken an art history course and consider myself a novice in terms of art expertise. But I enjoy visiting national art galleries and occasionally smaller ones in new cities when we travel.

What is it about the Impressionists that has such enduring appeal? It seems to me there’s a certain reverse snobbery about them at times, an attitude of, “the masses love it, so it can’t be serious art.” A quick Wikipedia search  told me a Monet painting sold for $41.4 million in May 2008. Money isn’t the only measure of value, but that amount is serious.

And while Monet is playing in Sydney, Aussies have another opportunity to see Impressionist works at “Degas, Master of French Art” at the National Gallery of Art in Canberra.

What I like best about the Impressionists’ art:

• the scenery of fields, meadows, trees, rivers, and and clouds. Clive prefers the crisper lines of artists like Constable, whose countryside we recently visited in England.  Clive says looking at the Impressionists for too long makes him feel short-sighted.
• Monet’s poppies and poplars, and his snow at Argenteuil
• flowers of every colour; seeing Monet’s paintings in museums (and appreciating the art even more, after seeing the real, restored gardens, lily pond, and Japanese bridge at Giverny)
• the colours of nature: the blues and greens of sky and grass, and the reds, yellows, and oranges of sunrises and sunsets
• whether city or country, land or water, the changing light over the landscape; I just don’t seem to appreciate old, dark paintings

Tulips, Clos Normand, Monet's Garden, Giverny, France

Tulips, Clos Normand, Monet's Garden, Giverny, France

No Lecturettes, Please – or at least Keep Your Voice Down

I dislike crowds anywhere. In gallery viewing rooms they’re made worse by people who love the sound of their own voice and can’t stop lecturing others.  A woman who seemed to be following us spoke incessantly to her companion, “look at the curve of the arms,” “see how he wanted to portray this,” and “note how he emphasized that.”

How I wished I could recreate a scene from a Woody Allen film (I can’t recall which one), in which he’s on line for movie tickets. There’s a couple behind him, with the man pontificating to the woman, in great detail, about what the director intended.

The director himself then magically appears and says, “That’s not true. I didn’t mean that at all.” Woody Allen looks directly at the camera and says, “Don’t you wish that could happen in real life?”

Garden Appreciation

Clive and I don’t like to garden, but we both love walking in gardens, visiting Botanical Gardens, and admiring the gardens of grand old English-style houses on our trips.

My late husband was a gifted gardener and photographer, and we visited Monet’s garden at Giverny several times. On our first visit in 1983, the train station at Vernon was a sleepy, suburban stop with one taxi, not the relatively modern visitor centre it is today. It welcomes people to Monet’s garden (and the later Musée d’Art Americain), reflecting, along with the $41M price tag, the ever-increasing popularity of Monet and the Impressionists.

Monet’s Garden at Giverny is unquestionably one of my top two recommendations for day trips from Paris (the other is the cathedral at Chartres). It’s all the more interesting and inspiring if you visit Giverny after seeing Monet’s paintings at the above-mentioned museums.

Well-Travelled Art

It initially seemed strange to me that the Sydney exhibit has no paintings from France, only the U.S. and Australia. The guide quotes Monet as saying to his art dealer in 1888, “It breaks my heart to see all of my paintings leave for America.”

In thinking about it, though, I realise Impressionist art is very well-travelled. As I wrote several months ago when we visited Edinburgh, a highlight was seeing “Scotland & Impressionism” at the Scotland National Gallery. That exhibit had paintings from France and many from galleries and collections in Glasgow.

I like to think Monet would be pleased, after all, to see his work so well-loved and admired around the world.

Path Leading to Monet's House, Giverny, France

Path Leading to Monet's House, Giverny, France

Monet’s Garden at Giverny, France
Musée d’Art Americain , Giverny, France

Art Gallery of New South Wales, “Monet and the Impressionists”
National Gallery of Australia, “Degas, Master of French Art”
National Gallery of Scotland, “Impressionism & Scotland”

3 Responses

  1. I love to visit Giverny. I try to get their before the busloads of tourists. I like Monet but I think Van Gogh is my favorite.

  2. I love the same museums as you but you should also check out “le musee Rodin”.

  3. Thanks, Linda and Nadege.

    Nadege, yes definitely – love the Rodin museum as well, especially the garden in the back. Thanks for the reminder – I haven’t been there in some time and am keen to go with Clive – maybe next trip!


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