Monet: The Late Years at the de Young Museum in San Francisco is an opportunity to encounter a Monet you might not have met before. This 50-painting-strong exhibition envelops you in a new, and darker, Monet experience.
The deYoung, in collaboration with the Kimball Art Museum in Ft. Worth, has assembled a stellar exhibition of works loaned by major public and private collections worldwide, including 20 from the Musée Marmottan Monet in Paris and one from Fine Arts Museums board president Dede Wilsey. Many are being shown for the first time in the United States, and not a few are from private collections that have never been shown anywhere.
This is the first exhibition in more than 20 years dedicated to the final stage of Monet’s career (1913–1926)—when his work became increasingly bold and abstract. Many of his celebrated water lilies are included, as beguiling and luminescent as ever, but in these late works the softened tone changes into something much darker, with dark blue and, eventually, red and orange taking center stage.
Deeper and deeper we are drawn into the world of Monet’s later years—as he journeyed through depression from the loss of his wife and son, his art became increasingly moody. Despair from grief and failing vision from age and cataracts affected his tonal balance and perception.
This adversity gives us a redefined Monet, one who is more radical in his abstraction, a darker, brooding artist who refused to give in to the ravages of age (his failing sight forced him to memorize the location of the colors on his palette)—and so becomes a pioneer of modern abstraction.
It’s difficult not to be transfixed by the many large-scale paintings in the show. They seem to surround you, indeed they seem to envelop you. There is a sense of being in his garden in Giverny, as if you could walk right into the painting. To say it is an immersive experience is an understatement.
You won’t want to miss this opportunity to witness Monet’s triumph over adversity, now through May 27 at the de Young Museum, and then at the Kimbell Art Museum from June 16 through September 15, 2019.