Monaco (dpa) – It was December when Claude Monet painted Monaco’s Monte Carlo from the nearby French headland of Roquebrune during a two-week stay on the French Riviera in 1883.
The French artist (1840-1926), who by that time had already set up camp in Giverny, was soon to return to the Mediterranean, heading just across the border to the Italian resort town of Bordighera in 1884 and spending time in Antibes near Cannes in 1888.
During his stays on the French-Italian coastline, Monet created some 90 paintings, 23 of which are now on display in Monte Carlo, a district of the tiny city-state of Monaco wedged in between France and the Mediterranean and a haven for the rich and famous.
Even during the lifetime of the founding father of impressionism, many works from this period were never shown together, curator Marianne Mathieu told dpa. But this is not the only reason why the exhibition called “Monet in Full Light” at Monaco’s Grimaldi Forum – a state-of-the-art cultural and congress centre facing out onto the sea – is a “historic event,” according to the renowned Monet specialist.
While much has been said about his stays in Le Havre, Giverny, Rouen and London, little was known about Monet’s time spent on the Riviera, Mathieu said. “The exhibition has brought many insights. Each of his stays represents a turning point in his work,” the expert stressed.
Marking one of these turning points, the French painter began to abandon his panoramic paintings in order to devote himself to fragments from nature, as a study of a solitary olive tree in the exhibition shows, laying the groundwork for what would become one of his best-known motifs, the water lilies.
In his last decades, Monet focused almost exclusively on single natural elements – water lilies, weeping willows – as seen in his famous garden at Giverny in the French region of Normandy.
According to Mathieu, Monet’s second decisive experience in the Mediterranean region was the discovery of the Moreno Garden in Bordighera – an 80-hectare garden full of native and exotic plants, allowing the artist to experience “man-made nature in which he could paint undisturbed.” Only a little later, Monet began to develop the garden at his estate in Giverny, which became his most important source of inspiration.
“Monet in Full Light” is scheduled to run until September 3. General admission is €14 ($15).