Monet in London
‘ Monet’ at the Helly Nahmad Gallery, Cork Street, London W1
until Feb 26th Entry free
Cork Street is tucked away behind the Royal Academy on busy Piccadilly. What a treat to find a quiet oasis in busy London, some 20 paintings in the spacious setting of this private gallery and no crowds.
This made it possible to view the paintings from a distance as well as to get up close to study the brushstrokes and the complex way small quantities of different colours are placed next to one another to create the shimmering effects of light seen from further back. The area of water in ‘Le Palais de Contarini, Venice’ 1908 was made up of many horizontal lines of colour hatched together like tapestry wools. Colours including teal, pinky mauve, darks blues and greens, creams, garnet and brown.They are sensational compared with the sometimes pale and poor quality reproductions I have seen. An exciting thing about this exhibition though is that most of the paintings have not been exhibited in London before as they belonged to Monet’s family or have been in private collections.
Les Canotiers d’Argenteuil had not been shown publicly since 1873. (There is a photo of it on the FT review, titled ‘Sailing Boats, d’Argenteuil’ a link is at the top of this post)
In the original the red of the long rowing boat at the back caught my eye then I noticed little areas of this colour that took my eye on a journey around the canvas to the bills of the ducks at the front, to the sailboat, a building and round again to the rowing boat. Likewise with little touches of soft whites and creams. Canotiers translates as boatmen and to me the painting is more about the activity of the boatmen on the river than the boats themselves. I can imagine the rowers moving the boat through the water and the men at the front pottering around on the sailboat.
The painting that most fascinated me was ‘The Bank at Petit Gennevilliers’ 1875 (photo on FT link) Here vigorous brushmarks scud around the painting as dashes and spots of colours. Vibrant colours are repeated around the painting with lighter tones of the same colours in the sky.
The shaded area is made up of rich colours and the sky and water shimmer with light. Quirky figures punctuate the river bank.
‘Argenteuil Fin d’apres-midi’ 1872 is directly opposite and painted very differently the brush marks smoother and blended. It seems to be from an earlier era yet only 3 years separate them. It has a great feeling of calm. I like them both.