The Marmottan Monet Museum
presents Monet, The Impressionist Eye, on view through February 15, 2009. The way in which the painter represents the world has been studied from many different angles: historical, cultural, social, religious, and particularly since the advent of modern art, from the point of view of the artists own psychology.
The eye and its vision are a complex filter. When this filter fails, this will alter the artists work, objectively, subjectively and esthetically.
There are several examples, well known enough to have become clichés. They show how a painter can adapt to a handicap, perhaps benefit from it, even unintentionally.
Ophthalmologists have long been interested in this problem. Of course, in medicine, as in psychology, the definition of "normal" is mostly negative - i.e. the absence of malfunction. Claude Monet's aim was to fix on the canvas a precise scene he had himself seen. When looking at his paintings, one analyses which part of his vision he chose to represent.
The construction of contours, the perception of shapes, the representation of movement, the sensation of colours: it is possible for us to see how this artist coped with the partial loss of vision directly necessary for the practice of his art.
At the height of his powers, when he had achieved the mastery he sought, Monet was forced to review his approach because of a visual handicap, severe enough to be incapacitating. It set limits to his expression; but it may also have led him down new, unexpected, paths.
Which part of Monets water lilies is the culmination of a journey on which he started some sixty years previously in Le Havre? Perhaps it is the largest part; but perhaps another element may be linked to the battle he was waging against cataracts, and to the anxiety it must have engendered, at a time when he was at last recognized, free to leave for posterity a masterful and unquestionable testimony of his unique relationship to the world.
With the help of the most advanced scientific insights, the aim of this exhibition is to help us discover the real essence of the painter which gives him his originality, in short, his vision.
Monet, the Impressionist Eye will showcase some sixty works of Monet, some coming from our own collection and others specially lent to the Musée Marmottan Monet for this exhibition.
Translated from the French by Anne and Peter Lewis.