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 ÔĽŅ

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.

We Use Way Too Many Fonts

Massimo Vignelli is most famous for designing the NYC Subway map. In this video, he speaks about typography, the history of fonts and argues that “There are good maybe a dozen (fonts)‚ĶI only really¬†used three or four in my life.” He also argues that when designers are less good, they use more fonts. When they are really bad, they use them all.

Fonts also greatly affect the load time of web pages. Since most web fonts are almost always externally hosted, it’s even more important to be conscious of how many fonts you use. What would happen if we limited font choices more? What if you only could use Open Sans at two weights along with both the regular and italic versions. How would that affect what you designed? ¬†Would it force you to use other differentiators? ¬†Would color become more pronounced? Would size?

When one variable is taken away from the design process it doesn’t have to limit you; it can actually make your design more impactful.

MoMA uses a single font for the vast majority of the museum. However, it also designs a new font for each of its special exhibits. It makes each one stand out even more. Could single font websites do the same thing? When you write a really powerful essay you make your own font just for it?