An Evening with Monet in Chicago
By Karina Wensjoe
Parisian painter Oscar-Claude Monet is remarkable for being one of the founders of the Impressionist movement. Other French masters in this category include Renoir, Sisley and Bazille. Instead of creating a traditional approach to landscape painting, Monet learned from his acquaintances and nature itself rather than mimicking his older maestros. The impressionist was remarkable for his variations of color and light in depicting daily or seasonal changes.
In the course of Monet’s life, the artist used many different methods of impressionistic techniques in portraying his perspective of reality. Such paintings dispense an aplomb. Allusive strokes of Monet’s landscapes is a daydream, strolling through colorful fields of the French countryside. Floating water lilies teleport you to Monet’s water garden in Giverny. The creamy and coarse strokes of Monet’s brushwork is mind bending and unconventional. Hence, the euphoria of impressionistic art does not fail at his expertise.
In 1888, Monet’s paintings first appeared alongside his contemporaries’ in a Chicago gallery. The Chicago Daily Tribune during that time notably said “Why go to Paris since Paris has come to Chicago.” Now, Monet’s works have returned to the city. The Art Institute of Chicago showcased a collection of Monet’s works at their exhibit, Monet and Chicago. Running from Sept. 5 to Jan. 18, visitors can view all 46 works—33 paintings and 13 drawings—collected by the museum. The pandemic did not make it impractical to admire Monet’s artistic contributions.
Several of Monet’s paintings are a depiction of his life in Giverny. During his time there, Monet’s interest in painting nature’s traits, typically scenes of sandy beaches and rivers bordering grassy banks, were illustrated in the gallery. Some of these paintings were completed during difficult moments in his life. The Beach at Sainte-Adresse (1867, oil on canvas) was painted when he left Camille, his eight month pregnant wife, to live with wealthy relatives at a coastal resort. On the Bank of the Seine, Bennecourt (1868, oil on canvas) was a depiction of his stay with Camille in a village on the Seine outside Paris. Unfortunately during their stay, Monet, Camille, and their son Jean were forced to leave Bennecourt because they were unable to pay for accommodations.
While in Giverny, Monet most notably painted Les Meules à Giverny, or a collection of tall haystacks from dawn to sunset. In this series, Monet provides variations of the same stacks posed throughout different moments of the day. Transient lighting is what the impressionist hoped to portray: the passage of morning to evening descending on the fields. Not only did Monet paint objects, he painted people. Luncheon Under the Tent, Giverny (1883-86, oil on canvas) is a dizzying piece of Monet’s extended family. He took inspiration from Pierre-August Renoir in recreating a luncheon scene in “a sketch-like state of dots and dashes.” Other paintings of his home and apple trees shined in the exhibit. Not only is viewing them an experience, it’s a privilege.
Monet spent some time outside of France. He visited London, where he painted several features of the city’s landscape. Present in the exhibit, Monet’s Waterloo Bridge series emphasizes the changes of color, light, and substance. In depicting these scenes of one of London’s many structures, the ensemble relatively conveys the fog-like qualities strung along the River Thames, making this collection one of Monet’s most fascinating works.
In my previous encounters with Monet’s works—at d’Orsay in Paris, The Met in New York City, and the National Gallery in London—the Art Institute flourished in their display of the impressionist’s extraordinary landscapes. Monet’s works have been a beacon of enjoyment in my life. My parents have always tried to give me the opportunity to learn about the world’s art, music, cultures, and literature. Since I was a little girl, I have traveled and seen Monet’s works among other Romanticists, Cubists, and Surrealists. The very substance of art has evolutionized because of artists like Monet. The talent for stroking a paintbrush across a canvas isn’t an effortless task but a passion. Needless to say, Monet’s works protrude through the canvas as a creamy rendition of life in and outside of Paris that surpasses the many Impressionists of his day.
Karina Wensjoe is an editorial intern who is knowledgeable in all things travel, beauty, and sustainability.