Monet & Architecture at the National Gallery is the first purely Monet exhibition to be staged in London for more than twenty years. Featuring more than seventy five paintings, spanning over his career of fifty years, it showcases the roles of diverse buildings in Monet’s work, and challenges the assumption that Monet was a man who only focused on gardens and seascapes. The art world might be obsessed with his water lilies (the exhibition opens with The Water Lily Pond, 1899), but that doesn’t mean that Claude Monet was.
The exhibition is in three sections – The Village and the Picturesque, The City and the Modern and The Monument and the Mysterious – each exploring how Monet captured a rapidly changing society through his portrayal of buildings.
View of Amsterdam (1874) shows the importance of the river on the city, whilst he Coal-heavers (1875) indicates a busy industry. We’re treated to views of contemporary leisure in The Promenade a Argenteuil (1872) and On the Boardwalk at Trouville (1870). And we can compare the scene in Charing Cross, Bridge, the Thames (1899-1903) with that immediately outside our door.
This exhibition captures the buildings and the light. It is a thing of beauty.