The French renaissance of Claude Monet

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

For much of the world he's the poster boy of Impressionism, but back home he's widely derided as banal. Now a Paris exhibition hopes to change all that

One of the world's favourite Frenchmen is coming home after 30 years of official neglect. The largest ever exhibition of the works of the Impressionist master Claude Monet opens in Paris tomorrow. The almost 200 paintings – including some never shown in France before – will be the first large Monet retrospective in his home country since 1980.

If you live in Paris, it is a rule that you never visit the Eiffel Tower. The French art establishment used, similarly, to have little time for Claude Monet (1840-1926), regarded as a pretty but simplistic painter for American billionaires and Japanese tourists.

The exhibition at the Grand Palais, just off the Champs Elysées, should put an end to all that. Over 80,000 advance tickets have been sold. The organisers hope that at least 700,000 people will visit the show before it closes on 24 January.

The exhibition has been accompanied by an avalanche of critical books, reclaiming Monet as not just a painter of poppies and haystacks but a profound and revolutionary artist. He was also a legendary gourmet. The literary outpourings include a reproduction of his favourite recipes collected in a notebook by his second wife, Alice.

The Monet exhibition is the idea of Guy Cogeval, director of the Musée d'Orsay, who believes that France has become too blasé about its extraordinary heritage of late 19th-century art. While working for eight years in the United States, he said, he was confronted with enormous public interest and critical respect for the art that France takes for granted.

"We are a little like spoilt children," he said. "In north America, Claude Monet is considered a living god. The same in Japan and Latin America. I was astonished when I returned to France to find that there is a kind of disaffection for Monet."

Almost all the important works on the artist in the last 30 years have been written by American and British art scholars, he pointed out. One of them, Professor Richard Thomson of Edinburgh University, is a co-curator of the exhibition.

He has organised the show around the fulcrum of the year 1890, when Monet began his celebrated "series" paintings of Rouen cathedral or haystacks or, later, water lilies. Interest in Monet as a painter of the outdoors, light and ephemeral beauty has, Professor Thomson says, distracted from his importance as a subtle and perfectionist painter of moods or emotional "interiors". The exhibition is therefore entitled Monet: L'Aventure Intérieure.

About a third of the 170 canvasses and 20-odd drawings in the Grand Palais exhibition come from the collection in the Musée d'Orsay. They include favourites like the field of poppies near Argenteuil, west of Paris, painted in 1873, or the sun breaking through a mauve London pea-souper fog over the Houses of Parliament, painted in 1904.

Two thirds of the paintings have been loaned from galleries and private collections in the United States, Japan, Russia, Britain and Australia. A handful were sold almost directly by the painter to collectors abroad and have never been exhibited before in France.

One institution which refused to co-operate, however, was just over two kilometres away from the Grand Palais. The Musée Marmottan-Monet in western Paris has the largest collection of Monet paintings in the world: over 100 canvasses left by the painter's son Michel Monet in 1966.

The curators of the large Monet exhibition at the Grand Palais asked the Marmottan for a number of paintings including the iconic Impression Sunrise (1872), a view of the port of Le Havre which helped to give the Impressionist movement its name. The rival museum refused.

If 2010 was going to be the year of a great Monet revival in Paris, the logic presumably went, why should the Marmottan be stripped of its best Monets? The museum, near the Ranelagh gardens in the 16th arrondissement, is therefore organising its own "retrospective". It will put its entire collection of 135 paintings, sketches and notebooks on display for the first time from 6 October to 20 February. These were works that Monet chose not to sell and bequeathed to his son. The exhibition is therefore called La Collection Intime.

In the 14 weeks when the two shows overlap, art lovers will be able to view over 300 Monet canvasses in the rival exhibitions (plus those that remain in the Musée d'Orsay, plus the giant murals of water lillies permanently affixed to the walls of the Musée de l'Orangerie).

You wait for 30 years for a big Monet exhibition and two come along at the same time. On the other hand, the advance sales for the Grand Palais exhibition suggest that – whatever the French art establishment once thought – you can't have too much Monet.

Arts and Entertainment
Winnie the Pooh has been branded 'inappropriate' in Poland
books
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Arts and Entertainment
Lee Evans is quitting comedy to spend more time with his wife and daughter

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

music
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
One Direction go Fourth: The boys pose on the cover of their new album Four

Review: One Direction, Four

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
'Game of Thrones' writer George RR Martin

Review: The World of Ice and Fire

books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Bean will play 'extraordinary hero' Inspector John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles
tvHow long before he gets killed off?
Arts and Entertainment
Some like it hot: Blaise Bellville

music
Arts and Entertainment
A costume worn by model Kate Moss for the 2013 photograph

art
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Len Goodman appeared to mutter the F-word after Simon Webbe's Strictly performance

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T makes his long-awaited return to the London stage
musicReview: Alexandra Palace, London
Arts and Entertainment
S Club 7 back in 2001 when they also supported 'Children in Need'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth rejoins Tess Daly to host the Strictly Come Dancing Children in Need special
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan plays Christian Grey getting ready for work

Film More romcom than S&M

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

Review: The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
The comedian Daniel O'Reilly appeared contrite on BBC Newsnight last night

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
The American stand-up Tig Notaro, who performed topless this week

Comedy...to show her mastectomy scars

Arts and Entertainment

TVNetflix gets cryptic

Arts and Entertainment
Claudia Winkleman is having another week off Strictly to care for her daughter
TV
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Children in Need is the BBC's UK charity. Since 1980 it has raised over £600 million to change the lives of disabled children and young people in the UK

TV review A moving film showing kids too busy to enjoy their youth

Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his winning novel

Books Not even a Man Booker prize could save Richard Flanagan from a nomination

Arts and Entertainment
Bryan Cranston will play federal agent Robert Mazur in The Infiltrator

Books
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

    Immigration: Obama's final frontier

    The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
    Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

    Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

    Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
    Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

    You know that headache you’ve got?

    Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
    Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

    Scoot commute

    Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
    Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

    The Paul Robeson story

    How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
    10 best satellite navigation systems

    Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

    Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
    Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

    Paul Scholes column

    England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
    Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

    Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

    Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
    Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

    Frank Warren column

    Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
    Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

    Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

    Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
    Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

    'How do you carry on? You have to...'

    The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
    Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

    Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

    Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

    'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

    Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
    Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

    Sir John Major hits out at theatres

    Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
    Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

    Kicking Barbie's butt

    How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines