Monet is not the man you think he is.
Look, I admit it. I was never much of a fan of Monet.
When we look at his ‘pretty pictures’, it’s easy to forget the struggle behind them. That’s why the exhibition Monet at Étretat at the Seattle Art Museum grabbed me by the balls.
Here’s why Monet is right, right now.
As the exhibition synopsis says, here we meet Monet at a pivotal moment. During the 1880s tensions in the artist’s life and increasing financial pressure to produce marketable work took Monet to the seaside town of Étretat on the Normandy Coast, well known as a destination for tourists and artists.
This period of artistic frustration and self-doubt turned out to be fruitful, creating the myth of a man Guy De Maupassant described as “no longer a painter but truly a hunter . . . in pursuit of impressions.”
No one wants to hang it on their wall.
When I exhibited my work After the Fires at Purple Noon Gallery, a lot of people left the exhibition in tears. As the Director, Robyn said, “Even a year after the bushfires, it was too soon.” The idea of hanging an artwork in your house that would trigger deep-seated trauma is too much to ask.
A later conversation with Michael Reid, reinforces this, “It was good work but no one wants to hang it on their wall.”
Huge thanks to the bold collectors who did take a good swath of the After the Fires exhibition home with them. Their collecting was powerful.
It gave me a lot to think about. I always want my work to tell a story, sometimes this is a difficult conversation.
When I saw Monet, it came at the right time for me. Like him, I am at a pivotal moment with my work. A shift is happening in my studio. My work is not going to get easier. The stories won’t be any less robust. They may be more like a fruit-forward wine. Revealing its nuances over time. It just doesn’t mean the work itself is sweet.