As a pioneer of Impressionism, Claude Monet remains one of art history's most beloved figures. With an oeuvre comprising over 2,500 works, his work is prominently featured in myriad museums around the world. Though prolific and popular, his paintings seldom star in large-scale exhibitions, making Claude Monet: The Truth of Nature, an upcoming exhibition at the Denver Art Museum, a particularly special occasion.
Featuring an astounding 120 works, Claude Monet: The Truth of Nature marks the largest Monet exhibition in 20 years. Intended to emphasize Monet's lifelong love of the natural world, this spectacle explores the artist's unique “response to the varied and distinct places in which he worked,” which he regularly chronicled on canvas—and which is evident in each and every painting featured in The Truth of Nature.
In order to amass such a collection (which spans both well-known works like his Water Lilies series and early landscapes, like View from Rouelles, completed when the artist was just 18 years old), curators at the Denver Art Museum and the Museum Barberini, a co-organizer of the show, turned to collections across the globe. In addition to large museums like the Musée d'Orsay and the Met, lenders include the Baltimore Museum of Art, Amsterdam's Stedelijk Museum, and private collectors.
In order to find out more about this groundbreaking show, we recently had the chance to speak to Angelica Daneo, the museum's Chief Curator and the curator of The Truth of Nature. Featuring exclusive input from Christoph Heinrich, the Denver Art Museum's director and co-curator of The Truth of Nature, this interview offers an exclusive introduction to a historic exhibition.
Claude Monet: The Truth of Nature is the most comprehensive Monet exhibition the United States has seen in 20 years. Why do you think such a gap has existed, and what prompted the Denver Art Museum to address it?
Institutions are often presenting exhibitions on Monet, as he is such an important artist if one wants to understand the development of Impressionism during the second half of the 19th century and the transition to a more abstract aesthetic in the early 20th century. Often, exhibitions address a particular moment in the artist’s career or a particular place, but with this exhibition, we had the opportunity to look more comprehensively at Monet’s response to different places throughout his entire artistic career. The directors of our two venues shared a passion for Monet and merging our respective holdings of artworks by this significant artist seemed like a great start to begin exploring a project together.
In what ways does this exhibition differ from others exploring Monet’s relationship with nature?
We really focused on specific places, not just nature in general. Monet was very intentional in the sites he chose to visit and paint, so we wanted to explore these choices and the responses he gave to the very different light conditions and colors of specific locales.
The pieces are presented in a thematic and chronological arrangement. What are some of the factors that influenced this curatorial choice?
As I mentioned before, the pursuit of different places and the engagement with varied landscapes is something Monet sought very intentionally, to culminate in the creation of his own personal place, Giverny. This purposeful trajectory is even more apparent when one follows his choices through the years and therefore chronological themes around places felt to be the best narrative for our visitors.
How long did this exhibition take to plan?
About three and a half years.
What are the challenges of executing such a large-scale exhibition?
Securing loans in the highly competitive field of Impressionism is always challenging, as these loans are in high demand, and for this reason we are grateful for the support of so many lenders who made this project possible.
What does the Denver Art Museum hope viewers take away from Claude Monet: The Truth of Nature?
We hope our visitors will leave the exhibition feeling a renewed and stronger appreciation for the art of this extraordinary master. Whether you already know Monet or not, his art is featured in every art history book, but reading that an artist is important is different than experiencing it in person, judging with our own eyes and our own emotional reactions. We hope our visitors will leave the exhibition with a personal understanding as to why this artist is still so relevant today.