The Monet exhibition team at the Museum Barberini. Pictured from left to right: Alexander Penn, Stefania Van Dyke, George T.M. Shackelford, Angelica Daneo, Christoph Heinrich, Marianne Mathieu, Paul H. Tucker, Ortrud Westheider, Daniel Zamani, James Rubin

Monet Conference Dispels Myths

Exhibition Team Preps for Upcoming Exhibition

Hallo aus Potsdam! This month, representatives from the Denver Art Museum traveled to the Museum Barberini in Potsdam, Germany, to attend a conference related to Claude Monet: The Truth of Nature, which opens in October.

The Museum Barberini is the co-organizer and co-curator of the Monet exhibition. It is located about 20 miles from Berlin. Since opening in January 2017, it has mounted renowned exhibitions on topics like impressionist landscapes, East German art, and Van Gogh. While it is a relatively young institution, the museum’s physical location is centuries old. The site—modeled after the Palazzo Barberini in Rome—was constructed during the late eighteenth century as a home for Frederick the Great, King of Prussia. Destroyed during the Second World War, it was reconstructed in recent years to house the museum.

Museum Barberini, Potsdam, Germany
Museum Barberini, Potsdam, Germany. Photo courtesy of Museum Barberini.

For the conference, the DAM and the Museum Barberini invited the exhibition catalog’s authors to gather and deliver presentations that anticipate their forthcoming essays.

Christoph Heinrich behind podium speaking to conference attendees
Christoph Heinrich, Frederick and Jan Mayer Director of the DAM, welcomes conference attendees.

Monet's Other Mediums

With seven Monet experts as distinguished speakers, it was a busy, but very rewarding, day. All of the presentations were absolutely fascinating, but two were especially interesting, because they dispelled common myths about Monet and his art.

The first, delivered by Marianne Mathieu, Deputy Director of the Musée Marmottan Monet in Paris, was titled Monet as a Draftsman: Between Drawing and Pictorial Invention. When most people think of Monet, they imagine his paintings of Haystacks or Waterlilies; however, Monet actually began his artistic pursuits as a drawer of caricatures. Throughout his life, Monet worked in mediums other than painting, so it was captivating to learn that he employed drawing to plan and enhance the compositions of his canvases.

sketched caricature of a man by Claude Monet
Claude Monet, Le Grand-Pere Lebas (Caricature of Grandfather Lebas), 1858-1859. The Esmond Bradley Martin Collection. The DAM plans to include several drawings in the exhibition, but the checklist is still being developed.

Monet's Motifs

The second, delivered by the DAM’s Chief Curator, Angelica Daneo, was titled ‘These palm trees are driving me crazy’: Monet, the South, and the Intentional Motif. Contrary to popular belief, Monet often finished his paintings in a studio, or later reworked a canvas after completing a "first draft" outside. He also often had an idea of what he wanted to paint and went out into nature to seek that specific motif. Here, Daneo demonstrated, through imagery pulled from throughout Monet’s career, that he, indeed, tended to favor certain compositional elements—even among paintings produced in very different locations.

Overall, it was an extremely thought-provoking day, with many fresh and surprising perspectives on an artist who is so well-studied. I, for one, cannot wait to get my hands on the catalog. It won’t be published in the U.S. until October, so we will have to wait with much anticipation in the meantime.

That’s all for now—see you next month! Auf Wiedersehen!

Image at top from left to right: Alexander Penn, Stefania Van Dyke, George T.M. Shackelford, Angelica Daneo, Christoph Heinrich, Marianne Mathieu, Paul H. Tucker, Ortrud Westheider, Daniel Zamani, James Rubin, and Richard Thomson.

Alexander Penn is a former curatorial research assistant in the department of painting and sculpture at the Denver Art Museum.