Monet: The Early Years

Between horror movies this weekend, I complimented my visit to the symphony Friday night with a trip this afternoon to the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth.  The Kimbell is one of my favorite haunts.  Their permanent collection is astounding.  But today’s visit had a purpose.  On temporary loan from the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the Kimbell has put together an exhibition simply called Monet: The Early Years.  The exhibition covers from around age 18 (1852) to his works just prior to his infamous Impression: Sunrise (1872) that gave the name to the Impressionist movement.  It’s an era that seems to be a constant surprise to all but the most ardent students of Monet’s work.


The broad themes on display here are family, nature, and light, though there are some incredibly detailed paintings of the areas surrounding the Louvre hidden in the midst, and many tend to forget that Monet was also one of the masters of the still life in this period.  Mostly, the exhibition gives us a wide cross section of this period in such a way that you can see the skill set developing into what most are familiar with.


One of the standout pieces for me is The Magpie, which a digital image just cannot reproduce properly.  You can see Monet’s love affair with light on full display here.  There are so many shades of white, and so many colors within those shades that for a moment you forget it’s white.  The shadows of the snow in the foreground and of the branches in the top right corner are incredibly complex variations of color.  It’s like he’s showing off.


Another along these lines is La Grenouillère.  There were actually a couple of these side by side, but this one’s my favorite.  The water effects in this are completely convincing.  Up close, the miasma of color is so rich that it’s impossible to make sense of it.  It’s almost as though Monet wants you to count the brushstrokes and to see the color instead of the picture he’s making with it.


Just a side note on the audio tour.  Usually if there’s an Impressionism exhibition of any kind at the Kimbell, the background music is usually Erik Satie.  It’s appropriate to the era and to the genre, being Impressionistic piano music.  I pay attention to these things, what can I say?  This time around, not one Satie composition.  Instead, we had Claude Debussy for most of the score, and a handful of similar pieces I wasn’t familiar with.

An afternoon surrounded by Monet’s early works set the tone for a lazy Sunday.  I wish I could share all of the works I saw on display, but that’s far more than a single blog should hold.  As is standard for me, I supported the museum and bought the book that accompanies the exhibition.  I find these books invaluable since they go into far more detail than the audio tour ever does.  It’s going to be hard to go back to the mundane job on Monday after a weekend of fine art and music.  A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.

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