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The colour of Monet
As a special exhibition of his paintings comes to Edinburgh, we discover how CLAUDE MONET had to match his pioneering style with shrewd marketing. Words: Ruth Hedges
f Monet was alive today he'd be the Beckham of the art
world. The collective income from merchandising would
probably hit millions every day with each rntrg. brolly and poster sold. And like the aforementioned pretty boy. Monet has sadly become better known for his wares than the talents that brought him fame. But that's probably where the analogy ends. so I won’t push it.
Luckily for as. irnd him. (‘laude ()scar Monet never saw the gatrdy. glittering fruits of his labour and so. despite eventually achieving quite a decent level of success for a progressive artist. did have to work for a living. Dedicated and prodigious. the man with a great heard. resembling Father Christmas. created over 2000 paintings. 80 of which are to he shown at lidinhurgh‘s newly refurbished and restored Royal Scottish Academy. (‘onccntrating on a period between I878 and 1883. they represent a time when Monet lived in the quiet Normandy village of Vetheuil and Pourville on the coast. It was also a time of financial struggle and the death of his beloved wife. Camille.
This period is fairly unknown to most people — falling inhetween the famous Paris (iare St l.a/are/;\'otre Dame scenes and the ubiquitous waterlilies. But that is what makes this such an exciting exhibition. giving Monet devotees a unique chance (it's a one stop show — lidinburgh only) to see these paintings grouped together for the first time. gathered from across the world. And they really are coming from all over: the skies are full of ﬂying Monets this month — crossing
oceans and continents to reach their temporary home of
28 THE LIST 77—31 JLr .3333
lidinburgh — like old friends reunited. you cotrld say. One is even coming all the way from Australia.
When Monet arrived in Vetheuil in I878. he was particularly broke and had a family to support. The loose. sketchy style of painting with which we're so familiar to the point of contempt was. at the time. seen as radical. People found it hard and struggled to relate to it: you couldn't pin it down and it unsettled them. For someone dependent on the tastes of the moneyed bourgeoisie to put food on the table. this is a bit of a problem. And so Monet had to adapt accordingly.
Landscapes of scenes within the village. along the banks of
the Seine and the countryside around it are captured with the ﬂeeting impressions of light on water. wind gusting through trees. fog creeping upon the village. But despite the radicalism in style. Monet revised the landscapes to make them more palatable to city tastes: promoting the sense of rural idyll to urhanites and making potential buyers more likely to pan with their 'hard earned' francs. However incomprehensible. they were. at least. perfect dreams.
‘The pictures that he produced around Vetheuil are rntrch more picturesqtre and pretty and were definitely being created for the market.‘ says Frances Fowle. a research fellow at the National Gallery of Scotland who is closely involved with the exhibition. “He was in quite a lot of debt and there was a pressing need for him to sell his paintings. They're almost idealised images. He tends to avoid any reference to modern life throughout the period.‘
It is not the idea we like to have of our artists — being
r m a . “I - I .' c o a
PEOPLE FOUND IT HARD AND STRUGGLED TO RELATE TO IT: IT UNSETTLED THEM