February 2007 Issue
Ode to Joy
The Cleveland Museum of Art celebrates the artistry of Claude Monet.
Whether it's "Water Lilies" silk-screened on umbrellas or "Gladioli" gracing greeting cards, the enduring popularity of Claude Monet's paintings doesn't surprise Heather Lemonedes.
"We, in our 21st-century daily lives with all their urban experience and technology, have gotten quite far from the pleasure of just immersing ourselves in beautiful, unspoiled natural settings," explains Lemonedes, the Cleveland Museum of Art's associate curator of prints and drawings and 19th-century art expert. "Monet allows us to escape into a world we aren't ordinarily able to obtain."
From February 18 through May 20, the Cleveland Museum of Art will offer patrons a passport to visit "Monet in Normandy," when it hosts a 50-painting retrospective focusing on the artist's love of the French coastal region that was his boyhood home.
It will, promises Lemonedes, give visitors insight into the key influences exemplified in his paintings.
"Many people know his late works, such as the Japanese bridge series, but I think the general public doesn't know how he got to that point," she says. "Monet didn't just spring into being as an exceedingly modern artist in the 1890s. The exhibit will explain how he got to be the artist we know and love."
Born in 1840 in Paris, where his father was a wholesale grocer, Monet moved with his family to Le Havre when he was 5 years old. The Normandy region was to have a profound effect on the artist throughout his life, as evidenced in his dramatic seascapes at Pourville and the celebrated canvases of his garden at Giverny.
"Most of us tend to have a special affection for the place where we were raised, and Monet is no exception," Lemonedes says. "He developed a lifelong attachment to the Normandy coast. So much so that he chose to live there in his later years."
Although Monet is considered an impressionist, embellishing portraits of the landscape around him with his interpretations of light and color, he was schooled as a realist under the tutelage of luminaries including Camille Pissarro and Constant Troyon.
"Monet came on the scene in the 1860s as an artist painting the coast," Lemonedes says. "He had this amazing ability to communicate the moods of nature - the winds, the sea breezes - through the way he put the paint onto the canvas. If he painted a stormy sea or rough wind over a hillside, he used these kind of brutal, jagged brushstrokes, whereas if he painted a smooth sea on a calm day, the brushstrokes were more delicate and softer. It's almost as if the artist channeled nature."
Lemonedes is quick to add that visitors to the exhibit will also see examples of the Monet they know best, including the museum's own beloved "Water Lilies" painting created between 1920 and 1926, in which, she says, "his palate brightened, his style loosened tremendously and the lilies have an abstract pattern of color and reflection."
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|CLEVELAND MUSEUM OF ART
Location: 11150 East Blvd., 888/CMA-0033
Hours: Tues.-Thur. 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Wed., Fri. and Sat. 10 a.m.-9 p.m.
Adults $15, children 6-18 and seniors age 65 and older $10
The Cleveland Museum of Art is hosting a variety of programs to complement the "Monet in Normandy" exhibition. For information about these and other special events, call 216/421-7350.
Monet Lecture Series
(admission is free)
Feb. 25, 2 p.m.: "Monet in Normandy," presented by Heather Lemonedes, CMA's associate curator of prints and drawings
Feb. 28, 6 p.m.: "Monet 1878-1883: The Seine and the Sea," presented by University of Edinburgh faculty member Richard Thomson
March 28, 6 p.m.: "Monet, Modernism, Normandy and La France," presented by University of Massachusetts professor Paul Tucker
April 15, 2 p.m.: "Japanese Influence on Impressionism," presented by Marjorie Williams, CMA's director of education
Monet Family Day
(free with purchase of exhibition ticket)
Feb. 25, 1-4 p.m.: Activities for all ages include craft projects and tours of the exhibit.