Monet travels to China

Monet travels to China
Must see  -   Exhibitions

A major exhibition just launched at Bund One Art Museum in Shanghai, bringing a haul of iconic paintings by Monet and other Impressionist masters and taking advantage of a slowed down art world due to global lockdown measures. Monet and Impressionist Masterpieces is a triumph of art, diplomacy and out of the box thinking that overcame pandemic art world paralysis.

The exhibition features major works that have come to represent Impressionism in Paris at the height of the 19th century. Works by Monet, Pissarro, Manet, and Morisot all find themselves confronting a different landscape in Shanghai, a city once referred to as the “Paris of the East”. They are now displayed in a new museum building in the deco Asia Building on the Bund waterfront, which still boasts French Concession-era architecture that contrasts with China’s busiest skyline.

Impression Sunrise Painting by Claude Monet
Impression, Sunrise, by Claude Monet

When the global pandemic brought Paris’s museums to an immediate halt last year, cities in China were just beginning to emerge out of lockdown. Marianne Mathieu, head curator at the Musée Marmottan, was quick to look for opportunities beyond the local restrictions and ultimately landed on Shanghai.

Monet’s “Impression, Sunrise” (1872), the museum’s most distinguished work and the one that gave the name to one of art’s greatest movements, found itself one day exhibited to an empty gallery. While other museums were quick to work on their online offerings; Mathieu arranged for “Impression, Sunrise”, as well as a few other contextual works, to go somewhere they could be seen physically — 9,000 miles away. The work had never been exhibited in China before.

The first ever Monet exhibition in China took place only seven years ago and was also organised by Mathieu. With French museums still closed in 2021, there was a real opportunity for an in-depth follow-up, based on the double strength of Musée Marmottan Monet’s holdings: a vast range of Impressionist paintings; and the world’s largest collection of Monet works.

Vetheuil in the Fog, 1879 - Claude Monet - WikiArt.org
Claude Monet’s ‘Vétheuil in the Fog’ (1879) © The Bridgeman Art Library

The show is not exactly a retrospective as the Marmottan carefully selected 20 Monet’s to make the cut. Starting with the show’s prized work, “Impression, Sunrise”, the pivotal “Vétheuil in Fog” (1879), had to come next. It develops from the earlier painting, again with the dawn setting and light breaking through. It also features the mist-cloaked buildings, liquid reflections, and the broad swirling emptiness that became signature across Monet’s oeuvre.

Apart from the 20 Monet masterpieces that have travelled from Paris, including 3 water lily paintings, the show boasts works from 17 other impressionist painters, and a total of 41 works overall.

Until August 1, smartshanghai.com