Saturday, April 07, 2007

Impressionist Giverny: A Colony of Artists, 1885–1915

Claude Monet painting on the edge of a wood
John Singer Sargent
Oil painting on canvas. support: 540 x 648 mm frame: 618 x 734 x 70 mm
Presented to the Tate Gallery, London by Miss Emily Sargent and Mrs Ormond through The Art Fund 1925

Following on from the last post, it's worth noting that a new exhibition has opened at the American Art Museum in Giverny - Impressionist Giverny: A Colony of Artists, 1885–1915. This celebrates the colony of American artists who came to Giverny to paint prior to the first world war. The exhibition runs until July 1st after which it transfers to the San Diego Museum of Art from July 21 to September 30th 2007. I gather there are lots of paintings of haystacks!

The Musée d'Art Américain was originally opened in Giverny to explore the connections - both historic and aesthetic - between French and American artists arising out of the colony of American artists which developed in and around the village of Giverny.

Claude Monet settled in the village in 1883. He was known to American art circles through various exhibitions. The colony of American artists started around 1887 when a small band of American artists "discovered" the village. You can see more details about the individual painters here on the Giverny Village website. After the initial discovery, other American artists soon followed and many began to extend their visits beyond the summer months. Some of the artists became friends with Monet and his family and certain individuals enjoyed a closer relationship with his step-daughter with Theodore Butler eventually marrying her.

The Art Info article about the exhibition makes for a very interesting about this phenomenon. One rather gets an impression that the colony may have been the artistic equivalent of a congregation of moths around a flame. Monet apparently initially welcomed the artists, but never offered himself in any sort of tutoring or mentor capacity, eventually subsequently tired of the "invasion" and according to artist Guy Rose indicated that he always looked as if was scowling!

However, Monet seems to have made time for more 'serious' and reputable artists, although interestingly the exhibition appears to make no reference to John Singer Sargent who first met Monet in 1876 (maybe being an ex-pat means he doesn't count?). They got to know one another better and painted together at Giverny round about 10 years later - with 1885 being the best estimate of the date of the famous portrait of Monet painting plein air by Singer Sargent (see above). The Tate website indicates that
Sargent admired the way that Monet worked out of doors, and imitated some of his subjects and methods in sketches such as this. It is characteristic of Sargent to give a human view of Monet's practice and of the patience of his wife, who sits behind him. (Tate Gallery - label for the painting when displayed in 2004)
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