A Glimpse Inside Claude Monet’s Private Art World

Many works formerly owned by Degas were displayed in a 2016 exhibition titled “Painters’ Paintings,” which also featured artworks owned by Anthony van Dyck, Matisse and Lucian Freud.


Édouard Manet’s “The Painter Monet in His Studio” (1874) features Claude Monet and his wife, Camille.

BPK, Berlin, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais. Courtesy Staatsgalerie Stuttgart.

“Looking at an artist’s collection can be compared to entering a mind, and accessing a usually overlooked dimension of his or her activities, yet it is one of the most essential, as it offers clues for a correct, deep and multifaceted understanding of their art,” Anne Robbins, a curator at the National Gallery, wrote in the exhibition catalog. “Painters’ paintings represent the very continuation of their artistic production.”

For the Marmottan, putting on an exhibition about Monet the collector proved difficult.

“Monet didn’t speak about his private life. His art collection, like his family life, was kept deeply private,” said Marianne Mathieu, the show’s curator, who in 2014-15 curated a groundbreaking Marmottan show on “Impression: Sunrise,” the 1872 Monet painting that engendered the term ‘Impressionism.’

Ms. Mathieu said that at Giverny, the collection hung in the private apartments upstairs, and was “rarely shown.” Nor did Monet keep records of his art collection, unlike Degas.

As a result, curating the exhibition was “like a police investigation,” she said. Complicating matters further, the inventory of Monet’s belongings at Giverny, which was drawn up at his death in 1926, was destroyed during World War II.

The Marmottan team has nonetheless managed to document 120 works as having unequivocally belonged to Monet.

The earliest portrait in the show is a caricature of the young Monet by his friend Charles Lhuillier, produced in the late 1850s when the 20-year-old artist had just left the northwestern port of Le Havre for Paris. Monet kept this and other portraits of his youth.

As Monet settled into his new life in Paris, he befriended Manet and Renoir. They produced numerous portraits of Monet and his wife Camille, an artist’s model. Some were produced at Monet’s new house in the Paris suburb of Argenteuil, where he organized picnics and outdoor gatherings in the garden or along the banks of the…

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