courtesy Art Resource, NY
As winter is fast approaching in Cleveland, the vibrant autumnal colors and crisp fallen leaves remind us that, soon, the Cleveland landscape will be devoid of life, save the occasional bird or squirrel braving the cold to scrounge up some food. If you find yourself longing to see green again, you might want to head not outside, but in.
The Cleveland Museum of Art’s (CMA) recent exhibition “Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse” is a vibrant assemblage of over one hundred garden-inspired Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings. The show features works by well-known French Impressionist artists such as Monet, Pissarro and Renoir. It also includes Impressionists from other countries, like American artist John Singer Sargent, Spanish artist Joaquín Sorolla and German artist Max Liebermann. The show also features Post-Impressionists such as Van Gogh, Matisse, Gauguin and Cézanne.
The paintings in the show are centered around the theme of the garden, and specifically the garden as a source of healing. When a visitor walks into the gallery she immediately sees a quote by Monet: “Gardening was something I learned in my youth when I was unhappy. I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers.”
As the visitor continues through the gallery it becomes apparent that, even in years of war, artists such as Monet were able to find spiritual and mental healing by painting scenes of gardens.
The centerpiece of the exhibition is an entire room devoted to Monet’s monumental paintings of water lilies. The “Water Lilies” triptych (three paneled painting), originally part of a series of 12 paintings meant to decorate the Musée Rodin, takes center stage. Since it’s been 30 years since these three paintings had been seen together and four years since the CMA’s panel has been housed in the museum, this exhibition is truly a special occasion. In the room housing the “Water Lilies” triptych are two benches on which visitors can sit to fully immerse themselves in the experience.
“Seeing the paintings all put together is amazing,” remarked Cleveland Institute of Music student Beatrice Hsieh.
“It’s such a calm scene, but at the same time it feels so monumental and grandiose,” said Dan Blumhard, another CIM student. Hsieh nodded in agreement and observed, “There’s a stillness to it, but it also feels alive.”
When questioned about why they decided to come see the exhibition, Hsieh and Blumhard said they wanted to come to relax since they had some free time during fall break. “It’s nice to not feel so stressed out and to relax.” Hsieh commented.
When asked about his thoughts on the exhibit, Blumhard said: “In general, every single painting is gorgeous. It’s really interesting to get different perspectives of the Impressionist era as a whole, and how it developed.”
Beatrice was particularly struck by the stylistic aspects. “The play of light and shadows, reflections, colors and depth are really wonderful,” she said.
As classical musicians Hsieh and Blumhard also found parallels between the development of Impressionist painting and the harmonic language of classical music, but both agreed you don’t have to be an artist or musician to be able to fully enjoy the exhibit. When asked if they would recommend this exhibit to other students they said enthusiastically: “Definitely, absolutely, everyone come.”
“Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse” will be up in the Kelvin and Eleanor Smith Foundation Hall and Gallery from Oct. 11, 2015 to Jan. 5, 2016, so there is plenty of time to visit. Case Western Reserve University students can get in free to the exhibition with their Case ID, and students from other universities can purchase tickets to the show for a discounted rate. Just make sure you leave your camera at home, because there is a strict no photography policy.
So if you ever find yourself tired of looking at the soon-to-exist piles of snow outside your window, head over to CMA to see this ever-verdant exhibit.
Exhibit: “Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse”
Location: Cleveland Museum of Art
Date: Ongoing until Jan. 5, 2016
Ticket Price: $0-18