Musée Marmottan Monet Present Monet and Abstraction Exhibition

Co-organised by the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid, La Caja Madrid and the Musée Marmottan Monet, the exhibition Monet and abstraction is presented at the Musée Marmottan Monet from 17 June to 26 September 2010.

Monet’s heritage continues to prompt new comparisons: in recent years, his influence on the abstract painters of the second half of the 20th century has been extensively explored. The new exhibition at the Musée Marmottan Monet examines this modernist legacy, bringing together forty-four Impressionist and abstract works, mostly from the sister collections of the Musée Marmottan Monet and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Foundation.

The Impressionists broke with the models of the past, spearheading a new, dissident movement in art. In their wake, the American Expressionists and European Informalists leapt into the breach, widening the gulf between traditional and new forms still further. Gradually, a new concept of art gained widespread acceptance – as an autonomous, self-referential, expressive medium, engendering and exploring its own formal language. Painting was no longer about the pictorial representation of the real world, but about the materiality of painting itself – the canvas or support, the brushwork, handling and colour.

Curated by Jacques Taddei, Director of the Musée Marmottan Monet, and Paloma Alarcó, Director of the Department of Paintings at the Museo Thyssen Bornemisza, the exhibition highlights Monet’s pivotal influence, and the interpretation of his legacy in the work of selected abstract – chiefly American – painters.

The exhibition itinerary explores the following main themes:

• Colour: Monet, Rothko and Hofmann.
• Effects of lights: Monet, Still.
• From brushwork to gesture: Monet, Pollock, Krasner, Tobey
• Works by Joan Mitchell, Jean-Paul Riopelle and Sam Francis are presented in relation to Monet’s garden at Giverny – a place of pilgrimage for all three artists
• Plus works by Jean Bazaine, Maria Elena Vieira da Silva, Gerhard Richter.

The Musée Marmottan Monet houses the world’s largest collection of works by Claude Monet. This year, the museum is devoting two major temporary exhibitions to his extraordinarily prolific oeuvre, including an exploration of the artist’s own private collection – Marmottan – Monet – La Collection – to be staged in autumn 2010. The present, summer exhibition, conceived in association with the Museo Thyssen Bornemisza in Madrid, examines the relationship between Monet’s work and the abstract movements of the second half of the 20th century.

Anyone who has seen Monet’s Waterlilies at the Musée de l’Orangerie – hailed by the exhibition’s curator Paloma Alarcó as the unrivalled archetype of “pure painting” – will know that of all the Impressionists, Monet took the exploration of the materiality of paint to its furthest extreme. For the viewer, it is fascinating to observe how Monet’s determination to capture the world as closely as possible – as perceived through his own eyes – leads him to a growing awareness of the very essence of creative expression in paint, and to enshrine that awareness as the central focus of his work, treating the physical matter of his paintings as a means of “re-presenting” not only the realistic apearance of nature, but its essential inner life. Ultimately, in his last works, figurative representation was supplanted by the translation of optical sensations and recollections into paint.

By asserting the importance of subjectivity in the act of painting, Monet broke new ground, opening the way to the modern movements of the 20th century. Monet’s work was rediscovered in the 1950s – chiefly by the American Abstract Expressionists, and painters of the second Ecole de Paris – since when numerous studies and exhibitions have addressed his essential “modernity”. The present exhibition continues that exploration, in particular highlighting the resonances between Monet’s work and that of leading abstract painters of the second half of the 20th century: Pollock, Rothko, Hofmann, Gottlieb, Vicente, Riopelle, Krasner, Tobey, Still, Francis, Mitchell, Zao Wou-ki, etc.

This exhibition will, we hope, shed new light on the originality and complexity of the work of one of the leading exponents of Impressionism, who went on to contribute – in the first decades of the 20th century – to the birth of a new approach to painting, increasingly divorced from the ideal of figurative representation that had underpinned the medium from its earliest beginnings.

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