What to Know Before You Go to the New Monet Exhibit at the Denver Art Museum

Water-Lilies 1908 Musée de Vernon, France


Monet: The Truth of Nature is the most comprehensive U.S. exhibition of Monet paintings in more than two decades.  The new Monet exhibit at the Denver Art Museum, is on view now through February 2ndThis extraordinary exhibit is like nothing you’ve seen. Here are a dozen things to know before you go:

1. Not Just Big But HUGE – this is Mega Monet!

Spanning two floor levels with 125 breathtaking paintings, it will take you a good amount of time to go through.  Plan accordingly.  Usually when one is lucky enough to see Claude Monet’s paintings, they find a much smaller collection. Even larger presentations, however like those at Musée d’Orsay or the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) don’t begin to compare to the expanse of masterpieces hanging on the walls of this Denver exhibit.

2. A Rare Look into the World’s Finest Private Collections at the New Monet Exhibit at the Denver Art Museum

Through Monet: The Truth of Nature, The DAM gives a special glimpse into dozens of paintings that are not usually on public display.  The rarity of the collection makes the exhibit truly a once in a lifetime experience.

3.  The World’s Finest Art Museums are Present and Accounted For!

The exhibit reunites Monet’s life work that is scattered around the globe in many of world’s finest art institutions and museums.  The paintings below hail from Australia, Scotland and Japan.  Of course there are many pieces of art that usually reside in France and all over Europe and the United States.

4.  The Descriptions Read like The Fisk Guide to Colleges.

Highlighting art collections of the finest US collegiate art museums, there are paintings that traveled from Harvard, Princeton, University of Florida and my alma mater the University of Michigan.  I love that the painting that traveled from Ann Arbor to Denver, The Break-up of the Ice, is a cool icy scene.  Of course Monet never visited either city, but how appropriate! In the same vein, The House of the Customs Officer, that usually resides in Cambridge, is timely fuel for academic discussion.

5. From Beginning to End: Monet’s Life in Paintings at the New Monet Exhibit at the Denver Art Museum

The impressive chronological expanse from Monet’s very first paintings to his last makes the exhibit make this exhibit special.  In the beginning, you find the some of Monet’s earliest attempts at his famous style en plen air. Traveling through the exhibit you experience the journey in which he began to master his technique and develop his passion and genius. At the end, right before you exit the exhibit there is an unfinished painting of water-lilies found after the painter’s death. The unfinished outer rim and still water before the addition of movement sheds a voyeur’s light into the famous impressionist’s order in which he mastered painting his beloved gardens of Giverny.  The galleries truly span from beginning to end, but as we know, the end was just the beginning for the many artists who followed.

Water-Lilies, 1914-17, private collection

6.  Weather Wows at the New Monet Exhibit at the Denver Art Museum

Focusing primarily on Monet’s love and enduring relationship with nature, weather plays an important role in his life, his paintings and this exhibit.  Monet’s interest in capturing quickly changing atmospheres shines a special focus on skies filled with fog, sunshine, clouds and frost. Living in Colorado we can relate to the beauty that fast changing weather can bring.

Coming into Giverny in Winter, 1885, Private Collection

7. Water is Everything!

If you focus just on the water when you look at the paintings, what an incredible story the oceans, streams and ponds tell! You can almost feel the mist of a peaceful stroll along the Seine and the crash of a perilous wave off the shore of Normandy.  The painting below, The Manneporte Seen from the East, is the location of where Monet actually wrestled with waves after they pulled him in while he was painting.  He returned later to paint the tale.

8.  Oh the Places You’ll Go Visiting the New Monet Exhibit at the Denver Art Museum!

One of the best parts of the exhibit is experiencing Monet’s travels unfold through the winding galleries of beautiful art.  Monet’s love and affection for everywhere he lived shines, even glistens, as you walk through the chronological roadmap of his life.  From his home in Argenteuil with is first wife Camille and throughout Europe, Monet led the way for many impressionists to follow their own journeys using light, landscapes and color.

Picture gallery in chronological order:

  • The Beach at Trouville, 1870, Wadsworth Antheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT
  • The Artist’s House in Argenteuil, 1873, The Art Institute of Chicago
  • The Doge’s Palace, 1908 Brooklyn Museum, New York
  • Tulip Fields at Sassenheim, 1886, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, MA
  • Villas at Bordighera 1884, private collection
  • The Houses in the Snow, Norway 1895 Frederic C. Hamilton Collection Denver Art Museum

9.  Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

If you are looking for big floor to ceiling water-lilies like the ones on display in the newly renovated MoMA, you won’t find them at the Denver Art Museum.  Only one of the galleries in the Monet exhibit at the Denver Art Museum is devoted to water lilies, and you won’t find it until the very end.  With a primary focus on the painter’s life long journey, the ever famous man-made gardens of Giverny seem to fall backstage to Monet’s other more prominently featured obsessions: haystacks, windmills, Poplar trees, boats, wheat fields and bridges.

10. Pink is the New Black.

Monet never uses black! Try to find black in his paintings as you walk through.  It just isn’t there.  Blues, pinks, yellows – those you’ll find!  Monet’s skill in capturing natural light and the reflection of color is one of the most prominent take-aways of the new Monet exhibit at the Denver Art Museum.

11.  Where Have all the People Gone?

People are a rare commodity in the pictures of the Monet exhibit at the Denver Art Museum.  Aside from some bodies on bustling bridges and far away park benches, the paintings focus very little on human beings.   However, there are a few family members featured. See if you can spot them as you go through.

The Canoe on the Epte, about 1890, Collection of Muséu de Arte de Såo Paulo Assis Chateaubriand – a rare painting of the exhibit featuring family members.

12.  Poor city planning plays a role?

Monet was troubled with poor city planning that infringed on his love of nature – something to which Denverites can certainly relate. Mayor Hancock can take some solace in the fact that even beautiful Paris had its planning critics. When Monet painted Paris, he tried to find a viewpoint from a high building or on top of a bridge to get above all the development. His aim was to avoid and overlook man made interferences with the landscape.

The Tuilleries, 1876 Musée Marmottan, Paris.

Finally, a few final footnotes to keep in mind:

Only in Denver!

Denver is the sole venue in the United States that will show this collection and one of only two museums that will have it worldwide.  After Denver it will go to one other place, Museum Barberini in Potsdam, Germany, that helped co-organize the exhibit with the DAM.

The Gift Shop at the New Monet Exhibit at the Denver Art Museum!

Last but not least, don’t miss the gift shop.  It is worth getting a little souvenir just for the bag. These are sturdy bags – WITH HANDLES- that have the name of the exhibit and location along the side and on the front and back. Whoever designed these bags…hats off to you!

A Monet Exhibit Like No Other!

I’ve traveled far and wide to see Monet’s greatest works including trips to his home at Giverny and to Musée Marmottan to visit Monet’s stolen and now returned “Sunrise” masterpiece.  Just last week, I stared in wonder at the floor to ceiling paintings of Monet’s Water-lilies at the newly designed Museum of Modern Art in New York. However, quite honestly I have never seen as impressive a collection of Claude Monet’s work than that presented in the current Monet: The Truth in Nature exhibit!

Thank you Denver Art Museum for giving us this special gift of the holiday season!  I could’t stop smiling the whole time I went through!

[su_box title=”Note:”]This DAM’s Monet exhibit is one of the hottest tickets in town. Many upcoming dates and times are already sold out. If you plan to go be sure to buy tickets as soon as possible.  You can get them on the Denver Art Museum website.  Tickets are $27 each including audio, youth 6 to 18 are $5; and as always at the DAM kids 5 and under are free. The museum is closed on Thanksgiving Day.[/su_box]

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