Claude Monet, a master of color, light and shadow

Claude Monet, a precursor of modernity

A cottage on a rock

Like many other of Claude Monet's works, this 1882 painting depicting a cottage is dominated by water. The sea is rough, and the wind blows through the bushes surrounding the modest hut. The colors are earthy and heavy. But Monet's brush works quickly, eternalizing a fleeting moment in nature.

Claude Monet, a precursor of modernity

The master in a bowler hat

Claude Monet, born on November 14, 1840, in Paris, already started at an early age to work with light and color. Concrete themes increasingly lost importance giving way to abstract images. He got together with other artists and set up his brush and easel in open spaces. In 1865, he was permitted to show his first painting in the Salon de Paris, which was a great honor.

Claude Monet, a precursor of modernity

Love for the Mediterranean landscape

In the 19th century, Bordighera in Liguria was highly poular among artists. Like many others, Claude Monet traveled to the town on the Italian Mediterranean in 1884 to spend three months there. "One would need a palette of diamonds and jewels. As far as blue and pink go - they exist here," he wrote about his stay, during which he created numerous paintings, among them "Vue de Bordighera" (1884).

Claude Monet, a precursor of modernity

As the sun sets on the Seine

In this painting ("Sunset on the Seine in Winter") the light above the River Seine slowly vanishes and the sun appears as a tiny orange ball on the horizon. The weather and its effects on nature is a prominent theme of Monet's. Over and over again, he studied the changes of light on plants and water. The reflections of a sunset on the Seine bring about a romantic atmosphere.

Claude Monet, a precursor of modernity

Double take

Monet's stepdaughters Germaine, Suzanne und Blanche are seen fishing on a glassy lake. Due to the wood it was made from, their boat was called a "norvégienne" - which also lent the painting its title, "In the Norvégienne." The borders between colors and motives blend, and the foreground and background vanish into each other. The painting was praised for its tranquillity and beauty.

Claude Monet, a precursor of modernity

Fog on the Thames

Monet creates magical landscapes that depict motives like flowery meadows, haystacks, cathedrals and bridges in the mist - like here where the Charing Cross Bridge crosses the River Thames in London. Monet wanted to eternalize his own feelings during a given moment in his work. The location itself seems to disintegrate.

Claude Monet, a precursor of modernity

Sunset over London's Houses of Parliament

Monet painted the Houses of Parliament Westminster while sitting on the terrace of St. Thomas' Hospital in London. By depicting the changing light and the fog, he conveyed a mysterious aura on the imposing structure. Once again, the river and the fog are conveyed as a blurred shadow of color.

Claude Monet, a precursor of modernity

An island in violet light

Here, the motif vanishes altogether. The borders between trees, clouds and their reflection in the water are no longer discernible. Monet painted this view of the Seine island Orties in Giverny in 1897. That's where he owned an estate with the famous pond covered with lilies. He rowed to the middle of the Seine where he worked on up to 14 canvasses at once, studying the different times of the day.

We've bought notecards and posters with his motives, but what makes the works of Impressionist Claude Monet so accessible? A show of his works in Switzerland sheds light on the talent of the French master.

Claude Monet (1840-1926) is one of the most significant and popular artists of the 20th century. The works of the Impressionist artist draw crowds - and not only to the recently opened Museum Barberini in Potsdam.

The Beyeler Foundation near Basel, Switzerland, is also devoting a current exhibition to Monet, who is one of the most important artists in its collection. "Light, Shadow and Reflection" focuses on the artistic development of the French painter from the era of Impressionism to his famous late work. It shows his Mediterranean landscapes, wild Atlantic coastal scenes, stretches of the River Seine, meadows with wild flowers, haystacks, water lilies, cathedrals, and bridges shrouded in fog.

The artist loved experimenting with the changing play of light and colors in the course of the day and the seasons, thus creating atmospheres that were both magical and recognizable.  

A descendant of Monet opens the exhibition

Philippe Piguet, a descendant of Monet, traveled to Basel in order to open the exhibition, recounting his personal memories of the paintings' themes during the vernissage. One of the paintings, for example, shows his grandmother at a river in Giverny where he himself used to play as a child. A woman sitting in a boat on that painting is Germaine, one of six children of Monet's second wife, Alice Hoschedé. According to him, Piguet is the only descendant of Monet's patchwork family that is still alive.

Claude Monet between 1888 and 1890

1880 - a turning point in Monet's life

The exhibition of the Beyeler Foundation focuses on the middle phase of Monet's oeuvre from 1880 to the early 1920s. The year 1880 was an important turning point in the artist's life. Dark clouds were hanging above his life as his wife Camille was dying and financial resources were scarce.

The entrepreneur and collector Ernest Hoschedé offered his family a sanctuary in Vétheuil on the Seine. That's where Monet and Hoschedé's wife Alice started a secret love affair that piqued his creativity. During this time, Monet's paintings, dominated by the play with light and reflection, became increasingly abstract. A famous example of this phase is "Rouen Cathedral" accomplished in 1894. Depicted on the painting is the famous church with different light reflections during different phases of the day.

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