Sunday, November 8, 2015

Cleveland Shows "The Garden in Modern Art: Monet to Matisse"

A range of styles and movements cover a seminal period in Western art

The Cleveland Museum of Art Atrium
     We hadn’t been to The Cleveland Museum of Art since 2006 when the addition was begun.  It’s added an enormous wing and a stupendous atrium, which had formerly been a large courtyard.  The blend of styles is seamless and it’s been a way to maintain Cleveland as a pre-eminent American art museum.  Both Sister Wendy and Robert Hughes visited Cleveland for their TV documentary series.  The Garden in Modern Art:  Monet to Matisse makes only one North American stop, which should be a major attraction for the museum.

Monet's 3-Panel Agapanthus
     The Garden in Modern Art begins with works from the 1860s and concludes in the 1920s, though there is a later Matisse from 1940 that comments on his (and the other artists’) earlier work.  The major Impressionists (Monet, Renoir, Pissaro, later Manet) and Post-Impressionists (Cézanne, Gauguin, Bonnard, who seemed like a neo-impressionist) are presented as well as other leading artists and art movements of that era.  There are 150 paintings and many of them are immediately recognizable.  The penultimate room features a collection of Monet’s water lilies that reminded me of L’Orangérie in Paris and our friend Cindy of a gallery in the Pittsburgh Museum of Art.   Although I had a sense that there’s Monet and then everyone else, there are surprising works by artists that aren’t usually included in wall calendars.

Louis Comfort Tiffany by Joaquin Sorolla
     I’d never seen Joaquin Sorolla’s work before; Cindy had, but only in books.  His portraits of his wife Clothilde and Louis Comfort Tiffany feature the sitters in gardens, but the palette features shades of white with pops of color emanating from the faces.  It’s in a naturalistic style, but suggests a fresher approach influenced by the Impressionists.  John Singer Sargent moved from a romantic naturalism to an overlay of impressionism and then to symbolism.  Henri Le Sidaner, one of Proust’s favorite artists, actually was a Symbolist and his outdoor winter scenes showing only white and gray vibrate with interior warmth.  There was also Santiago Rusiñol,
Santiago Rusiñol
one of the Els Quatre Gats, who utilized jewel tones and stark lighting to off set the subject matter.  His gardens represent the end of Spain’s era as a world power.

     The only drawback about this exhibition is that is ends the beginning of January.  It’s worth the trip to Cleveland.  The museum also features extensive collections of Asian art as well as 20th century American and European works.
Gray and Gold by john Rogers Cox

The Garden in Modern Art:  Monet to Matisse runs through January 5, 2016.

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