A Place 'Too Beautiful' Is Captured by Monet

In Claude Monet's late years, he embedded himself at home in Giverny, near Paris, painting his garden and particularly his waterlilies. He traveled little. But at the end of September 1908, a friend's invitation and poor weather persuaded him to head for the Italian city in the sea. His 10 weeks in Venice were to be his last trip to the Mediterranean south which, in the 1880s, had provided him with new challenges of light and color.

His wife, Alice, at first despaired of his painting at all in Venice: He said it was too beautiful and that nobody had been able to capture it in paint. (He apparently managed to forget Renoir's Venetian paintings, and Turner's.)

But once he started to paint, he systematically worked on a number of canvases, painting selected views for two hours at the same time each day. That way, both the time and the motifs were essentially the same, and the only differences were the light and the weather. At last, Alice said in a letter, he was painting "something else besides the inevitable waterlilies."

Two paintings depict San Giorgio Maggiore at twilight - the sunset color filling sky and water, silhouetting the buildings between them. The two paintings are very similar - but seen together, as they now can be at the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, their subtle differences can be appreciated. Monet's astounding perceptivity shows itself in the resonance of such differences in his serial paintings.

His Mediterranean paintings are not as well known, or as often exhibited, as his series of Rouen Cathedral faades or his grain stacks. This exhibition at Fort Worth (through Sept. 14), "Monet and the Mediterranean," provides a rare opportunity to consider Monet's encounter with the south. There is a fine catalog by curator Joachim Pissarro.

Monet's two Venetian sunsets show him still developing preoccupations that hark back to his early work. They also display an integral motive for his waterlily paintings: the way in which, through reflections in water, the light of the sky consistently envelops the entire landscape. The show will be at the Brooklyn, N.Y., Museum of Art from Oct. 10 to Jan. 4.

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