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  • Writer's pictureErin

Monet and Architecture Exhibition at the National Gallery

Architecture isn’t the first thing which comes to mind when on the subject of Monet, but this cleverly curated exhibition makes you see Monet in a different light (which coincidently is what you associate with the artist).

First off I must mention the huge impact this exhibition has on your mood as you walk through the exhibition, its hard not to realise the relaxing and calming impact it has on you as a whole, but in fact each room is a breathe of fresh air and keeps you wanting to see more.

The exhibition starts off with The Village and the Picturesque in the first three rooms, which gently eases you in to appreciating Monet in an architectural sense. Picturesque landscapes interlaced with colourful houses are the focus here as Monet takes us on his journey through Normandy and its’ idyllic coastal clifftops, Vétheuil, the Netherlands and finally holidaying in Bordighera, Italy.

The City and the Modern rooms are focused on the structures and street life of the built up environment as Monets attention focused on urban scenes and cityscapes. The Quai du Louvre depicts a bustling view of Paris painted from a balcony of the Louvre, is a stark contrast to one of my personal favourites The Coal-heavers in the second room of The City and the Modern.

This room focuses on Monet's’ time spent in Argenteuil, a suburb a little outside of Paris which was experiencing a period of great change and development from the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian War. This scene of industrialisation focuses on urban reality with a scene of man-made structures; buildings, bridges, barges and the silhouettes of men rhythmically loading coal onto the docked ships. It’s dark, dreary and just feels heavy and claustrophobic, and a stark contrast to some of Monet's most notable works (his lily paintings for instance), and perhaps that’s why it’s one of my favourites.

The Monument and the Mysterious is probably a highlight to many of the the visitors snaking and shuffling their way through the rooms (top tip is to go an hour before closing!). This is the period where Money left his rural home in Giverny and ventured across the continent to paint cities. Rouen, London and Venice were graced with Monets’ presence, where he had the opportunities to paint in some very convenient view points; from a ladies clothes shop opposite Rouen Cathedral, The Savoy hotel and St Thomas’s Hospital both on the River Thames.

Monet came to London seeking refuge following the outbreak of the Franco-Prussain war in 1870, but he returned to the city time and time again, completing over 100 works in total. With the opportunity to see three of his paintings of the Houses of Parliament side by side is truly exceptional; Fog Effect, Sunset and Stormy Sky, all of which are on loan from other galleries hang side by side; it’s a real treat to compare the three, and appreciate Monet’s full talent to capture light, but also taking a moment to notice his eye for the architectural beauty with the eery, haunting Houses of Parliament rising out from the background.

Finishing off the exhibition are nine scenes of Venice, and as you might expect, the famous and unique light of Venice was a real inspiration for Monet. The architectural subjects are cleverly highlighted by the fact that there’s no figures in any of the scenes (Monet chose not to include them, rather than it being unusually quiet - Venice had recently experienced a serge in tourism, so don’t get too jealous of him!). It’s a nice way to close one of the best exhibitions the National Gallery has put together for a long time, it is £22 but it’s definitely worth it. On until the 29th of July.


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