Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Monet and American Abstract Expressionism

The Orangerie has brought a collection of American Abstract Expressionist painting to Paris to hang beside some of Monet's final paintings in order to show how contemporary Monet's late work looked in the 1950s and in the decades after.
Visitors to the show are greeted by Joan Mitchell's enormous The good-bye door from 1980. The loose, bright colours with a vague landscape feel are similar to Monet's late paintings. Monet painted from nature, Mitchell painted from her feeling for nature.
In the first room, the Orangerie curators have gathered a sampling of American Abstract Expressionist painting. A perfect Mark Rothko -- Blue and Gray, 1962 
A lovely Jackson Pollock -- The Deep, 1953
A vibrant Philip Guston, Painting, 1954
Willem de Kooning, Villa Borghese, 1960. So bright and fresh.
A gorgeous stained canvas by Helen Frankenthaler -- Riverhead, 1963.
Now the curators introduce Claude Monet with a late, loose work -- Le Pont japonais, 1918. When Monet's famous Le Nymphias (The Waterlilies) were installed at the Orangerie in 1927 a year after his death, the paintings were poorly received. Nobody liked them.
They were ignored for decades until, in the 50s, Alfred Barr, of the Museum of Modern Art in NYC, and the hero of this tale, visited Paris. The late Monet paintings reminded him of the cutting edge work being done in New York at the time by Jackson Pollock (Untitled, vers 1949) and others.
Monet, Le Saule pleureur, 1920-1922
 Joan Mitchell, Peinture, 1956-1957
Philip Guston, Dial, 1956
Last year Bill and I posted pictures of an exhibition of Monet's final paintings in Rome. At the time we we were reminded of the work of second generation abstract expressionist, Joan Mitchell. Claude Monet, Saule pleureur et bassin aux nympheas, 1916-1919.
 Mitchell's work had to our eyes a colourful, blurred quality and a sketchy approach that didn't try to present a window-view but spoke of paint simply on a canvas. Joan Mitchell, Sans titre, 1964.
In this detail from Monet's Saule pleureur et bassin aux nympheas we see a similar approach.
Earlier this year we posted pictures from a show in Toronto featuring the work of Canadian painter, Jean-Paul Riopelle and Joan Mitchell who were a couple for 30 years. It was fun to see the artists brought together with Monet in Paris.
 Jean-Paul Riopelle, Sans titre, 1954
 Monet, Le Pont japonais, 1918-1924
Joan Mitchell, Untitled, 1967
Let's end with a screen shot of Monet in old age painting at Giverny 
and head away from this inspiring exhibition. On until August 20th.


  1. This exhibition seems very well thought out - interesting juxtapositions.
    2018 is my year of Joan Mitchell awareness.
    Now can I get to Paris this summer somehow?

  2. Yes, a very eye-opening bit of curation, Lisa! We loved it. Of course we also hope you manage to visit Paris and the show this summer. Bonne chance!