On 12 February 2002 a retrospective exhibition of the oeuvre of Claude Monet (1840-1926) opened in the General Staff building. Fourteen museums from around the world present 45 works. The basis of the exhibition has been provided by two Russia collections: eight paintings from the State Hermitage and nine from the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow. These canvases belonged to the collections of the Russian art patrons Sergei Shchukin and Ivan Morozov. The display is enlarged by works from private German collections currently kept in the Hermitage. Further works by Claude Monet come from French, British, German, Swiss and American museums.
Monet created the image of the city in the programmatic work Boulevard des Capucines (1873, Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts) that was shown at the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874. The artist could repeatedly paint one and the same motif without tiring: Garden and Woman in a Garden (Hermitage). On the estate of his friend and patron Oscar Hoschedé he produced A Corner of the Garden at Montgeron and The Pond at Montgeron (1876, Hermitage). In Turkeys (1876, Musée d'Orsay, Paris) Monet presents himself as a painter of animals as well as landscapes.
The series devoted to a single subject demonstrate the essence of the Impressionist method -capturing a momentary impression of the real world. The Arrival of a Train from Normandy. The Gare Saint-Lazare (1876, Art Institute of Chicago, USA) belongs to the earliest of them. The Hôtel Roche-Noire, Trouville (1870, Musée d'Orsay, Paris) is one of the world's finest paintings of life in a seaside resort.
From 1883 onwards the landscapes of northern France became the leading theme in Monet's work: A Haystack at Giverny (Hermitage and Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts), Poppy Field in a Hollow near Giverny (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, USA), A Meadow at Giverny (1888, Hermitage). Two Mediterranean views - Antibes. View from the Notre-Dame Plateau (1888) and the late work The Grand Canal in Venice (1908, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, USA) reflect periods in the artist's career not represented in the Russian collections.
Paintings from British, American and Swiss museums provide visitors with an idea of the two series Poplars (begun in the 1890s) and Water-Lilies (begun in 1907).
As well as natural motifs, Monet was fascinated with the interaction of the natural world and architecture. His interest was aroused by Gothic edifices with their rich relief and texture, as seen, for example, in the series on Rouen Cathedral (1892-94). The exhibition includes the canvas from the Musée d'Orsay entitled Harmony in Brown Tones (1892-94), Rouen Cathedral in the Evening (1892-94, Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts), Rouen Cathedral at Noon (1893-94, Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts) and Rouen Cathedral, Façade (1894, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, USA).
The most significant series of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century is devoted to views of the British capital where Monet studied the metamorphoses caused by fog dissolving the bridges over the Thames - Waterloo Bridge. The Effect of Fog (1903, Hermitage), Seagulls. The Thames. The Houses of Parliament (1903-04, Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts), and The Houses of Parliament in Fog (1903, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, USA).
The artist was increasingly interpreting the magic of a watery surface in a decorative key. In the landscape The Town of Vétheuil (1901, Pushkin Fine Arts Museum) the boundary between objects and their reflection transformed by sunlight is erased. The apparent decorativeness of the Water-Lilies series carries within it a philosophy of contemplation. The exhibition features two canvases belonging respectively to the initial (Water-Lilies, 1907, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, USA) and mature (Water-Lilies, 1914-17, Fondation Beyeler, Basle, Switzerland) periods of work on this series.
Of particular interest is the late composition The Japanese Bridge (1920-22, Museum of Modern Art, New York) in which Monet interprets a favourite motif of his own turn-of-the-century period in the manner of his late work.
The Metropolitan Museum, New York has provided the best example of a still life - Sunflowers (1881) - and one of the most remarkable early depictions of the sea - Regatta at St Andresse (1867).
Claude Monet's creative legacy is a reflection of the tireless searchings of a brilliant painter. The creator of a whole era in art, he managed to express in his works a special perception of the world that immerses the viewer in the flow of his own time (distinct from astronomical time) that is filled with the perpetual search for elusive images and the desire to capture their slightest nuances.