Monet's Lasting Impression on Modern & Contemporary Art

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"When you go out to paint, try to forget what objects you have before you, a tree, a house, a field or whatever. Merely think, here is a little square of blue, here an oblong of pink, here a streak of yellow, and paint it just as it looks to you, the exact color and shape, until it gives your naive impression of the scene before you." Monet’s words on landscape – and his dedication to light, nature and atmosphere – not only influenced the abstract movements of the 20th and 21st centuries but have established him as an abstract painter in his own right. Click ahead to learn about this watershed 1890s moment in both Monet's œuvre and that of Modern and contemporary artists.

Impressionist & Modern Art Evening
14 May | New York

Monet's Lasting Impression on Modern & Contemporary Art

  • Claude Monet, Matinée sur la Seine, 1896. Estimate $18,000,000–25,000,000. To be offered in Impressionist & Modern Art Evening (14 May, New York).
    "For me, a landscape does not exist in its own right, since its appearance changes at every moment; but its surroundings bring it to life – the air and the light, which vary continually . . . For me it is only the surrounding atmosphere which gives objects their real value."
    –Claude Monet, as quoted in J House, Nature into Art, New Haven & London: 1986, pp. 28–29.

  • Claude Monet, Meules, 1890–91. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
    The 1890s have come to be known as the decade when Monet focused intently on series of works, each with its own nearly identical subjects. Starting in 1890–91 with the grainstacks (colloquially called “Haystacks”) with their heavy impasto and lavishly worked surfaces, Monet found a vehicle to express his views on the meaning of landscape.

    From the series of grainstacks, Monet would move to the s-shaped curve of poplars lining the river Epte – trees he went to great lengths to preserve from felling by the town – to the luminous architecture of the Rouen Cathedral; the delicate renderings of ice flowing, forming and melting on the Seine; the eternally gray-shrouded Mount Kolsaas in Norway; the more sun-filled cliffs in Normandy to his bracingly early mornings on the Seine; and, finally, imagery of his carefully constructed Japanese bridge in his Giverny gardens.
  • Claude Monet, Sur la falaise, au petit ailly, 1896. To be offered in Impressionist & Modern Art Evening (14 May, New York).
    "The simple, arabesque compositions that Monet employs in Mornings on the Seine continue the decorative arrangements that he used so often in coastal paintings. The soft, harmonic colors and dry, tapestry-like surfaces of the newer series extend what Monet had been exploring in the North, while both series deal with a reduced number of forms and a sense of Monet’s splendid isolation in untrammeled nature."
    –Paul Hayes Tucker, Monet in the '90s, The Series Paintings [exhibition catalogue], London: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston & Royal Academy of Arts, 1990, p. 218.



     

  • Mark Rothko, No. 61 (Rust and Blue), 1953. Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.
    "The manner in which Monet transformed the rhythms of nature into an expression of his own inner feelings anticipates the chromatic abstractions of later artists like Mark Rothko and Adolph Gottlieb . . . . Both Rothko and Gottlieb created works of expansive luminosity that express universal emotions. Rothko's large-format color field canvases with their open, vibrant rectangular forms which, bearing no relationship to geometry, appear to float in an indeterminate space, can be linked to certain aspects of the Impressionists' treatment of light, especially Monet's. Like Monet, Rothko concentrated on achieving visual contrasts by means of the application of color in successive thin glazes as if it were watercolor, not oil, diminishing the texture of the painting to its minimum expression, to make it evident that the light source emerges from the paint itself."
    –Paul Hayes Tucker, Monet in the '90s, The Series Paintings [exhibition catalogue], London: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston & Royal Academy of Arts, 1990, pp. 31 & 33.

  • Gerhard Richter, Sommertag (Summer Day), 1999. Albertina, Vienna, permanent loan from a private collection.
    The late 20th and early 21st centuries have seen a number of established master painters return to the landscape, from David Hockney, whose canvases of the Woldgate woods, lanes and fields have dominated much of his production in the past two decades, to Gerhard Richter's 1990s landscapes painted from his own photographs, like that of Sommertag, which evokes the sfumato-like effects of Monet’s Matinée sur la Seine.
    –D Elger & H Ulrich, eds., Gerhard Richter: Text. Writings, Interviews and Letters 1961–2007, London: 2009, p. 81.

  • Gerhard Richter, Abstraktes Bild, See (Abstrace Painting, Lake), 1997. Museum Frieder Burda, Baden-Baden.
    During a 1973 interview, when asked "Why do most of your paintings look like blurry photographs?" Richter answered, "I've never found anything to be lacking in a blurry canvas. Quite the contrary: you can see many more things in it than in a sharply focused image. A landscape painted with exactness forces you to see a determined number of clearly differentiated trees, while in a blurry canvas you can perceive as many trees as you want. The painting is more open."
    –D Elger & H Ulrich, eds., Gerhard Richter: Text. Writings, Interviews and Letters 1961–2007, London: 2009, p. 81.

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