One of the largest collections of Claude Monet paintings is on display at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA) for the first time since it was originally displayed at this location 25 years ago. Known for his use of muted palettes and simple brush strokes, Monet’s revered works once again bring a sense of serenity to Boston in Monet and Boston: Lasting Impressions.
Due to popular demand, the Monet and Boston: Lasting Impressions exhibit has been extended until Mar. 28, according to an email to The Heights from Karen Frascona, the MFA’s director of public relations.
“‘Monet and Boston’ has completely sold out during the run of the show,” Frascona said in the email.
The exhibit is divided into four sections: Becoming Monet, Monet and Japonisme, Monet’s Normandy, and Monet’s Magic. Each section delves into Monet’s career chronologically, beginning with the caricatures he sketched as a teenager.
The first drawing in the exhibit is titled “Dandy with a Small Cigar” and is drastically different from the landscape paintings Monet is known for. In this caricature, Monet depicts a well-dressed man holding his top hat and a cigar with wafts of smoke floating in the air. Instead of his usual oil paints, Monet used charcoal and white chalk.
He also signed the sketch as “O. Monet,” referring to his given name Oscar instead of Claude — a name Monet adopted during his time in the military, according to the plaque accompanying the sketch.
In Monet and Japonisme, multiple portraits of Monet’s wife are on display. For example, Monet painted his wife sewing with a child at her feet in “Camille Monet and a Child in the Artist’s Garden in Argenteuil.”
During his time in Argenteuil, France, Monet developed an interest in gardening, according to the plaque next to the painting. A wall of red and pink flowers is used as a backdrop for the two figures, referencing his newfound hobby.
The variety of brushstrokes used to create both the dress Camille is wearing and the roses in the back draw your eye all over the canvas, not just to the subject of the wife and child. The simple, straight strokes used to create the striped dress contrast nicely with the Impressionist strokes used to paint the flowers.
Those visiting the exhibit will see how Monet progressed as an artist, both through his own art and that of others. Along with the MFA’s 35 Monet paintings, works by artists he admired and used for inspiration are also displayed.
Monet drew heavily from Eugène Boudin throughout his career. A fellow Impressionist from France, Boudin’s innovative style of painting landscapes outdoors encouraged Monet to do the same, as stated on a plaque in the exhibit.
Utagawa Hiroshige II’s works also served as inspiration for many of Monet’s paintings. The technique of painting a close-up landscape in combination with a faraway landscape in Hiroshige’s “Chrysanthemums at Somei in Tokyo” is mirrored in Monet’s “Flower Beds at Vétheuil.”
Monet is famous for painting the same location during different seasons or times of day, which is demonstrated in his three paintings all titled “Morning on the Seine, near Giverny.” Although the same landscape is depicted, each painting uses a slightly different palette, giving each version a life of its own.
In each variation of the landscape of the Seine, Monet seamlessly paints the reflection of the surrounding shrubbery into the Seine River. From across the exhibit, these paintings more closely resemble photographs than oil paintings.
Water is a common motif in a variety of Monet’s paintings, including in his most famous Water Lilies series and “The Water Lily Pond.”
The Monet exhibit serves as a place to relax and recenter yourself as well as learn more about one of the leading painters of the Impressionist movement. Each beautiful painting is accompanied by a plaque providing context of the work, and an audio tour is available on the MFA app and website.
According to a press release from October 2020, the MFA’s Monet exhibit was originally scheduled to open in April of the same year in order to celebrate the museum’s 150th anniversary. The opening was delayed due to a temporary closing caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Monet and Boston finally opened on Nov. 15 and lasted until the museum temporarily closed for a second time on Dec. 16 as a result of Boston’s reversion to Phase 2, Step 2 of Massachusetts’ reopening plan.
As of Feb. 3, the Monet exhibit, and the MFA general admission, is open to visitors.
Since its reopening in November, the MFA has been limiting the capacity of people in open galleries in adherence with Massachusetts COVID-19 guidelines.
Time slots for Monet and Boston must be reserved online, according to Frascona’s email to The Heights. Visitors must enter the exhibit during their hour-long time slot but are allowed to remain in the exhibit for as long as they want. Tickets for the exhibit went on sale for March admission on Feb. 16 for members and Feb. 17 for nonmembers, according to the MFA’s website.Although Monet never visited Boston, his works have always left an impression on its residents. With the revival of some of his most famous paintings in Monet and Boston, Monet’s legacy will impact the City of Boston for another lifetime.
Featured Image by Molly Bankert / for The Heights