Public Parks, Private Gardens at The Met

The impressionist era artists produced a dizzying amount of work the explored and celebrated the outdoors, and in what could be termed The Met garden show, you can see an impressive exploration of this work. The artists displayed include many of the painters that are the biggest names from the late eighteenth century to the early twentieth: Monet, Rousseau, Van Gogh, Seurat, and Renoir.

The exhibit is organized around four main sections: Public Parks, Flowers, Private Gardens, and Portraits in Gardens. Each of these sections includes great works, but here are my favorites from each.

Public Parks

The Edge of the Woods at Monts-Girard, Fontainebleau Forest – Théodore Rousseau

Rousseau's pre-impressionist work shows woods not far from Paris and includes a mixture of young and old trees. As this was the type of painting that many of the other artists on display were likely exposed to as at a young age, it helps set the stage for what will be seen in the rest of the show.

Flowers

I've seen both of these paintings before, but seeing them next to each other allows for the opportunity to compare them in a completely different way. Van Gogh's frail emotion vs. Monet's cheery impression. Van Gogh painted many more sunflowers than this one, but it's frail expression of emotion contrasts with Monet's exploration of color. This room contains still lifes using a number of different mediums and some early photograph prints.  

Private Gardens

Figures under a Tree – Auguste Renoir

One of the things that impressed me the most about this exhibit was the quantity of watercolor and pastel paintings. As easier to use when outside of a studio, it makes sense to see them so highly represented. This Renoir seems like something he may have produced as a sketch rather than a dramatic large painting. This section contains many Monet paintings from the more realist Garden at Sainte-Adresse to the larger than life The Path through the Irises.

Portraits

The Monet Family in Their Garden at Argenteuil – Édouard Manet

Camille Monet's eyes grabbed me the moment I saw this painting. Manet sets a scene that almost looks like the bokeh portrait photographers aim for. This section also includes work by Mary Cassatt, one of the few women and few Americans in this exhibition

The Met has an incredible collection of Monet, and it is on display throughout this show, but it is the opportunity to see multiple artists working on the same or similar subjects is the true highlight of this show.

Public Parks, Private Gardens: Paris to Provence is at The Met until July 29th in Gallaries 964-965 which is on the ground floor below The Robert Lehman Collection. I can't wait for it to warm up a bit so that I can explore it again and then sit in Central Park with these masterpieces fresh in my mind. If you aren't able to make it to New York to see this exhibit, you can view many of the pieces on The Met's site for this exhibit.

Claude Monet in New York Museums

Claude Monet is one of the foremost painters of the impressionist movement. His efforts to show the motion and color of light are in full force at museums in New York City. If you want to view works by Monet, you aren't limited to just one of the art museums in NYC.  In fact, Monet's work is currently being displayed in four different New York Museums. 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art 

30 works of Monet are on display at the met. These include works from when the artist was in his mid-twenties and using the inspiration of Japanese art to embrace the 2d nature of paintings. Garden at Sainte-Adresse is an example of this period of Monet's career.

Garden at Sainte-Adresse (1867)

As Monet grew older, his landscapes began to show more motion. Vétheuil in Summer was done in 1880. The brushstrokes visible in the Seine help portray the constant changing reflection of light on a body of water. 

Vétheuil in Summer (1880)

As Monet grew older, he continued his exploration of light by painting the same locations during multiple parts of the day. While making Rouen Cathedral: The Portal (Sunlight), he moved from canvas to canvas as the day progressed. More than 30 paintings make up the Rouen Cathedral series. 

Rouen Cathedral: The Portal (Sunlight) (1894)

While finishing the Rouen Cathedral series, Monet began putting in a water garden on his property that would serve as the inspiration for some of his best known works. Already in his mid-fifties, the Water Lillies demonstrate how Cataracts affected Monet's Vision with earlier works showing much greater detail, while the later works demonstrate the blurring and color changes he saw as his eyes changed.

Overall, the 30 works of Monet currently on view at the Met demonstrate the artist's evolution.

Museum of Modern Art

MoMA has a Monet specific gallery featuring 3 works from the Artists later career including a massive 3-panel Water Lilly that is one of the more breathtaking pieces of art in NYC. 

Reflections of Clouds on the Water-Lily Pond flickr photo by ralph and jenny shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

MoMA's collection of Monet's is considerably smaller than the Met's collection, but the massiveness of the Water Lily on display make it a must-see piece of Art. 

Two More Monet on view in NYC

The Guggenheim currently has one Monet on view, a later work during Monet's 1908 trip to Venice while The Brooklyn Museum has The Islets at Port-Villez (Les Iles à Port-Villez), a 1890 piece with circular motions in water that echo Vincent Van Gogh's work. The Brooklyn Museum owns other works by Monet such as one from the Houses of Parliament series, but none are currently on display. 

Between the breadth of work at The Met, and the monumental Water Lilies at MoMA, you have multiple options for exploring Monet in NYC. There are few better cities for exploring this Impressionist master. 

Up close differences

Painting, while often thought of a 2d medium, is much more three-dimensional than it is often given credit. It makes it hard to appreciate a work of art in two dimensions.

I spent a while yesterday studying two of MoMA’s masterpieces.  Flag by Jasper John stood outside the entrance for the Robert Rauschenberg: Among Friends exhibit that’s in place right now. From a distance, flag appears to be a textured painting of an American Flag, but as you get close you can not only see that it’s newsprint underneath, but you can actually read the paper. You can see how it hang off the side of one of the stripes.  You can hear other people ask ridiculous questions like “Was this made before Alaska and Hawaii were states and that’s why there aren’t 50 stars on it?” (there are 56 stars). Up close and in person, you really get to appreciate the aspects of the piece you can’t see from a 2d picture.

Around the corner, Roy Lichtenstein’s iconic Drowning Girl inspired a similar feeling. When you look at photographs of Drowning Girl or you view it from far away, it comes across as a comic book piece that likely was first done in pencil, and then gone back over in ink (we can debate if this is tracing some other time) but upclose it becomes clearer that it’s not just clean lines. The strong black lines that dominate the painting aren’t smooth. The brush marks are clear. The dots that make up the shading are far from uniform in size. Many of them, especially in the lower left of the painting blend into each other.

When looking at things from far away, it’s easy to miss the imperfections. But it’s the imperfections that make it art. In many ways, it’s the same when we are working on a website. From a distance, when we aren’t intimately involved, there are things we aren’t going to see. When we get close, we can start to really understand what is going. We learn the background for why specific decisions get made. It can also cloud us. We stop seeing the big picture and focus on the flaws.

Balancing the close-up view of the imperfections and the broader story is always going to be a challenge. Concurring it though is what helps separate good from great.

Some Recent Paintings

I’ve been continuing to have fun with watercolors.  I find the process of creating something tangible to be a nice contrast with the majority of my day where I am creating digital things.

My friend Brian celebrated the second anniversary of the Post Status Club where he provides excellent news and insight for the WordPress community along with a clubhouse for to gather (in this case, slack).  To commemorate it, I made a little painting

I’ve also been spending a lot of time thinking about the concept of Love and the power it has to shine through.  It’s also a universal concept.  Love exists everywhere and in many different forms.  This painting is part of a larger series that explores that idea.

 

Painting in Public

I painted in public for the first time. I worry that I’ll be judged and I could hear the people next to me mention my art as I was making it, but I made it through. As I continue to make art, I want to feel more comfortable doing it in public settings. 2 out of 48 pages in my watercolor notebook got filled tonight. Here’s hoping I have the will to fill the next 46.