Impressionist painter Claude Monet came to the Riviera because of the quality of the light and stayed on not just to make artistic use of the Mediterranean sunshine but in a quest to capture the light itself.
This, in a nutshell, is the fascinating theme of the Grimaldi Forum’s summer exhibition which promises to be exceptional in every sense.
It is very clear that the exposition will not be a formal presentation of so many canvases, but a true ‘experience’ for visitors from the moment they enter the space.
The event’s curator, Monet expert Marriane Mathieu, points, in particular, to two paintings that illustrate most clearly Monet’s direction of travel. Crucially, they are of the same subject in the same place, one familiar to all locals, the Tête de Chien, before the building of the Monte-Carlo Bay.
In addition, the two very different canvases were painted during the same session on the same day in 1883, from Roquebrune. They represent Monet’s alpha and omega, says Marriane. She describes the first, more representational work as pure and very accomplished impressionism, while the second is one of Monet’s near-revolutionary canvases that captures light itself.
It can be argued, of course, that Monet was not alone on his journey. The English painter JMW Turner pre-dates Monet by at least 50 years in his experience and portrayal of light. His Steam and speed, the Great Western Railway, painted in 1844 not only captures a moment in time when moving from place to place had undergone a huge change, a revolution in travel and the experiences that this enables, but grappled, too, with the portrayal of sensations.
Interestingly, Monet’s journey was far from linear. His captivating impressionist painting In the Norwegian boat at Giverny was painted in 1887.
But it was to the Riviera and Monte-Carlo that Monet owed his major breakthrough, and it is to Monaco that many of his paintings return this summer for a visual and intellectual feast.
PHOTOS: Main, Marriane Mathieu looks at the bigger picture at the Grimaldi Forum, centre, Monet’s two views of Tête de Chien, the second in the collection of HSH Prince Albert II, below, In the Norwegian boat at Giverny
Monet in Full Light opens at the Grimaldi Forum on July 8.