Between April 9 and July 29, the National Gallery in London staged the first exhibit devoted purely to the work of Claude Monet in that city in more than 20 years. While Monet may best be known for his paintings of nature – water lilies, gardens, haystacks, seashores, trees, etc. – the National Gallery’s exhibit focused on his pictures of buildings.
“Monet and Architecture” included 75 works by the 19th Century French Impressionist, one of which was lent by the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg (FL). That painting, Houses of Parliament, was recently returned to the MFA, St. Petersburg and has gone back on display.
“The Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg was thrilled to loan our painting to this important, scholarly project which gave wonderful insight into the significance of architecture in Monet’s imagery,” Kristen A. Shepherd, executive director of The Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, said. “Our Monet is part of a series in which the artist painted the same subjects repeatedly, under different light and weather conditions, and is usually seen without other works in the series nearby. This exhibition allowed visitors to see our painting in relation to other versions of Monet’s Houses of Parliament. Seeing them together truly highlighted how shifting atmospheric effects can change an otherwise static scene.
“It also means that the world knows a bit more about our institution and the treasures we hold in trust for our community. We always love having the opportunity to share works from our collection internationally.”
As anyone who has enjoyed a great piece of art in their home and been forced to part with it for any length of time will tell you, the absence leaves a void. The same holds true for a museum, although the MFA, St. Petersburg didn’t hesitate to lend when asked.
“When a truly great painting—like our beloved Monet—goes out on loan, it’s exciting to envision so many others enjoying the painting as we do and the adventure of it all,” Shepherd said. “The decision to loan such a significant work is not easy. Everyone notices the absence, from the staff to our visitors, but it’s a great pleasure and an honor to share great works of art with other communities and institutions. And when paintings like this return from loan, we tend to look at them with fresh eyes, and renewed appreciation.”
How has Shepherd seen the painting differently upon its return?
“I have a new appreciation for how nuanced its surface is,” Shepherd said. “This reflects the fact that Monet painted the canvas outside—in all that fog, from a balcony overlooking the Thames—and then re-worked it in this studio back in France.”
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