Innovation in 19th Century French Landscape Paintings

Monet, An Eye for Landscapes

Jul.13 (Sat), 2013 – Dec.24 (Sun), 2013
Paul Cézanne’s comment, “Monet is only an eye - but my God, what an eye!” is perhaps the most fitting tribute for Monet, a painter who unremittingly pursued the representation of light in the open-air.
Claude Monet (1840-1926) was born in Paris, but raised on the coast of Normandy in Le Havre. It was his encounter with Eugéne Boudin that opened his eyes to landscape painting. In Paris in the 1860s he associated with Pissarro, Renoir, Sisley and others who would become known as Impressionist painters. They explored the representation of changes in light and new approaches to painting in the nineteenth century. From 1874 they held their own joint exhibition. Monet’s eye was not fixed, however, solely on capturing the momentary sensations and impressions of a landscape. Monet would later, with refinements from his memory, produce landscapes filled with the evocative power of what could be called his inner vision.

Many Impressionist exhibitions have focused of Monet’s use of light and color, the method of his brushstrokes, or the modern city as his subject. Monet, An Eye for Landscapes: Innovation in 19th Century French Landscape Paintings was a collaboration between the National Museum of Western Art and the Pola Museum of Art, two pre-eminent Japanese collections of works by Monet. The exhibition follows the trajectory of Monet’s ‘eye’ on the landscape through a description of his painting composition and the pictorial space he created, as well as comparisons with the works of other artists. The nearly 100 works presented in this exhibition center around a core of 35 Monet paintings, ranging from his earliest through to those of his later years. These are complemented by outstanding examples of modern painting by Manet, Corot, Gauguin, Van Gogh, Seurat, Signac, Puvis de Chavannes, Picasso and others, from the collections of the two participating museums. The exhibition revealed in sharp relief how Monet created his unique pictorial space, and also shedded light on how Monet fortified his eye to revolutionize the modern landscape.

This exhibition marked the first time for the Pola Museum of Art to incorporate as many as 50 works from another museum, and it was also the first time for the National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo to collaborate with a private Japanese museum. In preparation, the two museums had for several years been conducting surveys and exchanging information on each other’s collections, and discussing the selection of works and exhibition structure. As well as introducing the art of Monet, this exhibition also presented an opportunity for viewers to discover and reassess the strengths of both collections.