When Boston fell head over heels in love with Monet


The Coastline by Claude Monet in Trouville (1881)
Courtesy of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts

Claude Monet never visited Boston, but some of the city’s collectors were determined to get to know him, even going as far as France to visit his home in Giverny and pick up a painting or two.

In a letter from 1891, the American painter John Singer Sargent, a resident of Giverny, recounts having met such collectors at Monet’s. “We came out of you full of enthusiasm despite the Bostonian air of these ladies,” he wrote. “Mrs. Fairchild must have written to her husband to take two, one of [the Paris gallery] Durand-Ruel and another one of you. Sargent acted as an intermediary, winning the purchase of Durand-Ruel.


La Japonaise de Monet (Camille Monet in Japanese costume) (1876)
© Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

The exhibition Monet and Boston: lasting impression, which opens this week at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), Boston, will delve into the city’s unique passion for Monet, showcasing the artist’s 35 paintings in the institution. In total, more than 50 works will be presented, including eight other Monets borrowed from private collections and works by artists who influenced Impressionism, including woodcuts by Hiroshige and paintings by Jean-François Millet and Eugène Boudin. .

“The tastes of Bostonians and the likes of Monet have aligned,” says Katie Hanson, who organized the show. “It’s also interesting to think of the Boston-based artists in the late 19th century who would go to France for work, for painting trips, for training, all kinds of things, and they saw exhibitions of the work. of Monet and visit him at his home.

A wave of appreciation for Impressionism, and Monet’s paintings in particular, settled in Boston in the 1890s. Loans were made to the MFA and the local St Botolph Club, while lectures were offered. on the artist’s work and working methods. “Monet was a little worried that so many paintings would leave France for the United States, but he trusted Paul Durand-Ruel, who executed so many of these sales, to do well alongside him,” says Hanson. .


Monet’s millstone (Sunset) (1891)
© Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

In many ways, the exhibition parallels Monet and Chicago (until Jan. 18, 2021) at the Art Institute of Chicago, celebrating that city’s embrace for the painter with 70 paintings from the institution’s holdings and Chicago-based collections.

The Boston exhibition is divided into four segments retracing Monet’s beginnings as a painter, his fascination with Japonism, his embrace of Normandy, and the “fairy-tale” atmospheric effects developed in the 1890s. which celebrates the museum’s 150th anniversary, also includes a pungent rarity: a caricature Monet drew as a teenager of a dapper man holding a cigar and a top hat, dating from 1858 and acquired by the MFA in February .

The main sponsor of the show is Bank of America.

Monet and Boston: lasting impression, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, November 15-February 28, 2021

About James Almanza

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