Côté Jardin: Monet to Bonnard
After recently spending a few days in Normandy and the Orne, we returned home via the village of Giverny, now world-famous as the home of Monet and his celebrated garden, to visit our first exhibition in almost a year!
However, we were not there for Monet and his garden, but rather the museum down the road, the Musée des Impressionismes. We have visited this museum on numerous occasions for its many very good exhibitions. The currrent exhibition, “Côté Jardin: Monet to Bonnard” is no exception. The exhibition brings together about 100 paintings, drawings and prints plus some very interesting, albeit small, photographs of the artists, their families and friends.
Côté Jardin literally means ‘Garden Side’, but that is a rather clunky expression in English to describe what this exhibition is about, namely how gardens have inspired artists. The exhibition aims to show the opposing and yet similar view of depicting ‘Gardens’ by the Impressionists (represented by Monet in the title) and the new movement of younger artists (represented by Bonnard in the exhibition title) who called themselves ‘The Nabis’, whose name derived from the Hebrew for ‘Prophet’.
The Nabis positioned themselves in opposition to the fleeting impressions of light of the Impressionists. They believed rather, that art should not simply be a depiction of nature, but rather a synthesis of metaphors and symbols created by the artist. They were heavily influenced by the art of Japan that was popular at the time.
Maurice Denis later wrote that…
(art) “is a creation of our spirit for which nature is only the occasion.”
Rather than a simple depiction of the general subject of the garden – one dealt with many times already – the current exhibition aims to evoke the feelings and sensibilities the gardens had on the artists on display, and despite their differences, to show the links between the two groups. Bonnard in particular was central in bringing the two aesthetics together, being a frequent visitor to Monet at Giverny.
The exhibition has been organised, as so many are these days, thematically, as well as chronologically. The sections are devoted to the following themes – ‘Space’, ‘Absence’, ‘Dreams’, ‘Public Gardens and Squares’, ‘Luxuriant Gardens’, and finally ‘Return to Impressionism’.
The exhibition was due to open on the 1st of April 2021, but was only able to finally open because of Covid restrictions, on May 19th. The exhibition however, runs until November 19th 2021, so hopefully, by then the current restrictions will have been lifted and you will have time to visit it.
As always with our look at various exhibitions we visit we let you in on some of our favourites and some stand out paintings, including by a female Impressionist artist who may be unfamiliar to you, Marie Bracquemond, later described as one of the three ‘Grandes Dames’ of Impressionism, together with Mary Cassatt and Berthe Morisot. While many come from the collection of the Musée D’Orsay in Paris, there are a signicant number from private collections that are rarely exhibited in public, so even more of a reason to try and see it.
For those of you who like looking into the background of a painting and its current situation, there is an interesting story behind one of the paintings in the exhibition, Gustave Caillebotte’s “Parterre de Marguerites” or ‘Field of Daisies’.
The painting we see today was acquired by the museum in several pieces and has been painstakingly restored and put together as originally intended.
The Musée des Impressionismes has got an interesting article about it on its web site which you can access by following this link –
One image, in particular, struck a chord with Val summing up her feelings at the situation we all find ourselves in at the moment, It was a small etching by James Tissot, entitled “La Rêveuse” or “The Dreamer”, but it could equally illustrate “Ennui” or “Being Fed up”!
A feature of many of the exhibitions at this museum is as you leave they show a contemporary work from its holdings that fits the theme of the exhibition. The work shown this time is by the American artist Joan Mitchell, a contemporary of Jackson Pollock and Willem De Kooning, entitled “La Grande Vallée IX”, painted in 1983 and part of a cycle of 16 paintings of representations of landscapes inspired by feelings of mourning and memory of her sister who had died the previous year. Much loved by Val you will not be surprised to hear!
As a final touch, the museum is including its own garden as part of the exhibition, for the visitor to experience their own reaction to ‘the garden’. A very pleasant and relaxing end to the afternoon – especially when we finally got to the Hotel Baudy for a late lunch!
Look at some of the pictures, check out the artists and museum website, and be inspired to paint your own gardens!
The exhibition is curated by Cyrille Sciama, Director of the Musée des Impressionismes, Giverny and Mathias Chivot, Art Historian and specialist on the Nabis and co-author of the catalogue Raisonnée of Edouard Vuillard.
Further information can be found at the museum web site at https://www.mdig.fr/