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Claude Monet: Exhibitions in Basel, Martigny, Lausanne.

Art travel from Geneva to Basel, Martigny and Lausanne this spring is colored in Claude Monet’s bright palette. There is “Monet” exhibition in Basel, that shows 62 of Monet’s paintings from museums and 15 paintings from private collections. Claude Monet’s landscapes are also on display at Foundation Gianadda, Martigny and in Lausanne at Foundation de l’Hermitage.

Why are Monet’s landscapes, oil on canvases, still part of modern cultural life, though contemporary art does not provide depiction of the world, and its rhetorics functions in the context of “de-skilling”, of eliminating artistic skills?

It is so due to Monet’s modern simplicity, and to his non-mimetic, “mobile” colors, his sketchy compositions, and above all, brightness.

The brightness of Monet’s landscapes was admired by his contemporaries as well. In the 1880s, Maupassant wrote : “…I often accompanied Monet in search of impressions…I saw how he caught gleaming reflections of light on the  white cliffs and depicted it with a flow of melted yellow tones which miraculously transferred the effect of that uncatchable and blinding glow”.

Drawing uncatchable and blinding glow is a complex optical task. In impressionist’s new optical technique pure pigments, from a tube, are put on canvas in separate touches setting a chromatic contrast, when yellow is combined with blue and green is put next to red. Shadows are colored, grey is eliminated.

Pure yellow, blue, and bright pink are shining in Monet’s Mediterranean landscapes of the 1880s, “View of Monaco” from “Monet” exhibition in Basel, and  “Valee de Sasso, effet de soleil”, 1884 from the exhibition in Martigny.

Claude Monet, “Vallee de Sasso, effet de soleil”, 1884, from exhibition at Fondation Pierre Gianadda, image artdecision

”This will likely infuriate the opponents of the pink and blue because I am trying to depict these exact colors, the magic shine; those who had never seen this place or had failed to see through will undoubtedly raise their voices against its falseness, whereas I am still far away from grasping the genuine and amazing gamma which dominates here—from light grey to bright red”, – Monet wrote to Durrand Ruel.

Monet started to use bright blue in shadows, neglecting academic standards, which had previously taught to depict a predominance of warm hues. He was criticized for this cold color balance and blue shadows, critics said he had an “indigo-mania” – “a defect” of impressionist’s eyesight.

The shadows in Monet’s landscapes are bright blue, because the light of the sky in nature is blue, blue light is cancelled by the yellowness of sunlight. In shadows the yellow sunlight is blocked and the blue reflection are seen. We notice blue in shadows on snow; Monet noticed blue reflections in all  shadows and against chromatic surfaces as well.

Brilliance of Monet’s landscapes, a complex optical task, that was solved, also marked a turn inward to the feelings. Emotions in painting are derived more from colors and forms, rather than from subjects chosen.

written by  Irina Vernichenko

Irina Vernichenko
Art critic, art consultant, co-founder of Artdecision online art magazine and the founder of Art&signatures art web site