Monday, January 26, 2009

Show me the Monet

Claude Monet..Impression,Sunrise..

Currently showing at the Nagoya City Art Museum until February 8th is an exhibition entitled Claude Monet..Impression,Sunrise.To celebrate 150 years of diplomatic relations between Japan and France the Nagoya City Art Museum has on display Monets painting "Impression,Sunrise" from the Musee Marmottan in Paris which gave rise to the term "Impressionism".
An art critic of the time,Louis Leroy on viewing the painting at an exhibition in 1874 branded all pictures that "focused on shimmering water and flooding light "Impressionism" to mock them".(Art for Dummies pg 152.)
The term had been intended as a negative description not only of one picture on display but a central aspect of the style in general.

In fact as the introduction notes at the gallery make clear and what I tend to forget is that Monet and other painters of this era were regarded as revolutionaries.
What now seems fairly tame and the stuff of chocolate box lids,parasols and cards was seen as forming an opposition to the conservative art world.
Artists such as Monet,Renoir,Degas,Sisley and Pissarro had to organise their own exhibitions as they were excluded from the annual ones held by the French Academy of Art.(Impressionism..Karin H. Grimme p6).

As to the exhibition itself there are 35 paintings in total on display.The ground floor has a selection of works by Monets contemporaries such as Sisley,Cezanne and Pissaro.In total there are 17 works downstairs.Pride of place is taken by Monets Impression:Sunrise, a delicate harbour scene of boats at dawn complete with an orange sun and shimmering light.The painting is accompanied with its own bored looking security guard.
On the second floor there are 18 paintings by Monet.As with the paintings downstairs with the exception of Impression:Sunrise all seem to have come from various Japanese institutions and companies.I noted that the Tochigi Prefectural Museum of Fine Arts,Asahi Breweries and the Bridgestone Museum of Art all had contributed some Monet works to this exhibition.
My attention was caught by a painting of Charing Cross Bridge,one of a series Monet painted while another colourful one depicting a boat at low tide on loan from the Tokyo Fuji Art Museum also stood out.
While there are only 35 paintings in total on display this lack of quantity doesnt necessairly mean a lack of quality.I hadnt seen the majority of the Monet works on display and it was interesting to see the range available within Japan.
I presume most of the works had been purchased during the so-called bubble era and wondered if any would be sold given the current economic situation.

I also wondered why all the works were under glass.Id previously seen Impression:Sunrise in Paris at the Musee Marmottan.As I recall then it wasnt under glass and one could also get closer to it.With the paintings sealed behind glass it seems to me that the paintings are "trapped" as it were.The glass seems to nullify the effect of the raised oil paint and the patterns and textures the artist produces.
The almost 3 dimensional effect Monet produces in his waterlilly paintings is all but lost behind the glare and reflection of the glass.

To sum up then,its worth a visit to see some less well known Monet works and compare them with the other Impressionist painters on display.
The exhibition runs through to Feb 8th.Admission is 1,300 yen for adults and its closed on Mondays.


katja.lou said...

Paintings are put behind glass to protect them from changes in humidity (which causes the canvas to expand and contract leading to cracks in the paint), air pollution and also the possibility of human damage (from just touching to vandalism.) Often when a painting is leant it is framed up with glass or perspex to protect it on its travels - obviously the risks are higher if it is being moved from one place to another. Generally staff in museums and private collections are a bit over protective of 'their' paintings when they are out of their sight so to speak (even if the destination is a display area with international standard environmental control and handling protocols.)

Sometimes special non reflective glass can be used, but it costs a fortune - more than city level museums can usually afford.

huey said...

Hi katja.lou,
Thanks for taking time to comment with your detailed response to my query about paintings and glass. I tend to forget just how old and fragile some of the works are and how they need to be protected.
I can only wonder what damage art works would suffer exposed to a typical hot and humid July day here in Nagoya.