Is Monet about to become the Panthéon's first famous artist?

Impressionist's remains may be moved from his beloved Giverny for a rare honour

Eighty-four years after his death, Claude Monet, one of the world's favourite Frenchmen, may finally leave his beloved village of Giverny and return to the centre of Paris. President Nicolas Sarkozy is considering whether to honour a promise made by his predecessor, and move the remains of the Impressionist painter to the Panthéon, the last resting place of France's official heroes.

The idea has been revived by the art critic and gallery owner, Guy Wildenstein, to coincide with a vast Monet exhibition that will take place at the Grand Palais in Paris from September this year to January 2011. This will be the largest Monet exhibition in France for 30 years, assembling over 200 paintings from museums and private collections all over the world.

In 1999, former President Chirac promised Mr Wildenstein's father, Daniel Wildenstein – the leading expert on Monet – that he would have the painter's remains moved to the Pantheon. The idea was dropped after the then-culture minister insisted Monet (1840-1926) should remain buried in Normandy in the village churchyard in Giverny, 60 miles west of Paris, close to his celebrated house and water lily garden.

Mr Wildenstein Jr, who owns a leading New York art gallery, has re-opened the issue in a letter to Mr Sarkozy. He points out that the Panthéon's claim to be the last resting place of the official Great and Good of France is undermined by one surprising omission: it contains no celebrated artist, and just one painter, the obscure neo-classicist Joseph-Marie Vien (1716-1809), a favourite of Napoleon. "I don't want to denigrate (Vien's) talent but all the same," Mr Wildenstein said. "Monet was an artist of the greatest importance, who influenced an entire generation."

Mr Sarkozy was said yesterday to be studying the idea seriously. Late last year, he was accused of a form of political grave digging after he suggested that the body of the novelist Albert Camus should be moved into the Panthéon. Left-wing politicians accused the centre-right president of trying to snatch the body of one of their heroes. Literary critics complained that a spiritual rebel like Camus should not be placed among the official heroes of the French republic.

Proposing the removal of Claude Monet's remains to the Panthéon might help Mr Sarkozy to turn the page – or start a new canvas. Although Monet and his fellow Impressionists were rejected and lampooned by the French art establishment when they emerged in the early 1870s, they have long since been accepted as one of the greatest symbols of French creativity.

Only the President can officially propose a new Panthéon resident but even he has to win the approval of the candidate's family. In 1999, President Chirac gave a solemn promise to Daniel Wildenstein that he would have Monet's remains removed to the domed building on the Paris left-bank. Nothing happened before the older Mr Wildenstein, who spent 50 years drawing up the official catalogue of Monet's works, died in 2001.

The centre-right President Chirac was sharing power at the time with a Socialist-led government. The then culture minister, Catherine Trautmann, rejected the idea of moving Monet's body for artistic and sentimental reasons. In a reply to a parliamentary question in 1999, she wrote that Monet was "passionately attached to Giverny where he lived for many years and is buried beside his wife. Claude Monet was a man of the light and all who appreciate the joy and beauty given by this great artist would wish to see him left in peace in Giverny".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service / Data Capture / Telesales

£12000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Front Of House Team Member

£16500 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales & Marketing Manager

£22000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company has won the award ...

Recruitment Genius: Store Manager & Store Supervisor

£19000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific