Tuesday, February 26, 2013

My Favorite Paintings at Musée Marmottan Monet

My 2008 trip to Paris brought me to the presence of more Monets, first at Musée de l'Orangerie, where his enormous Les Nymphéas filled two huge oval halls, then to Musée Marmottan Monet, which hosted his painting given the name to the Impressionism movement, Impression, Soleil levant, indeed a shimmering and muted vibrant painting of the gentle sunrise in a sea port.  The exhibition of the painting in that group show was mocked by the Parisian audience then and the group was branded as Impressionists, which quickly took hold of the people's imaginary and nowadays, almost any Impressionism show is a blockbuster event and people can related to Impressionism much more easily than to Titian or Raphael. How people's perceptions have been conditioned!  It was indeed a glorious painting but it didn't make into my top two favorites in this modestly-sized but very rich museum.

My favorite painting in that museum was a portrait by Edouard Manet, who was at the fringe of the Impressionists group and an odd man due to his somber palette and classical restraints of his portraits amongst the sunburst colors and free-forms of the others, and I loved him more for that precisely.  Here, his Portrait of Berthe Morisot, an artist in her own rights, presented us a confident woman who was somber, sensual, intelligent and serious, and not unaware of her own monumental yet feminine allure.  I love the way Manet applied his large swatches of paints to create flat areas confined in its clearly defined boundaries, such as the sitter's face and left hand - each of these areas glittered like the reflection of moon in dark water, surrounded by her "colorful" and singing black dress, and further accentuated by the dark brown flat background.  Simplistic, stylish and stirringly beautiful.

IMG_8907 _ Portrait de Berthe Morisot, Edouard Manet, Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris, June 2008
Portrait de Berthe Morisot, Edouard Manet

My second favorite was a well-known painting by Gustave Caillebotte, Rue de Paris, temps de pluie (Paris Street, Rainy Day).  Caillebotte made several versions of this work, and this one was more prosaic, more "impressionistic", less polished and less plastic than, say the one in Art Institute of Chicago, and had more earthy vitality, despite the fact that the subjects here were the sophisticated urban Paris and Parisians. I especially loved the exaggerated, plunging perspective of this work, and the perfectly captured varied postures of the pedestrians in the rain, and the central character's almost black face but for several suggestive strokes giving him many background stories for the viewers to fill in. A melancholic yet witty masterpiece.  Unforgettable.

Rue de Paris, temps de pluie, 1877, Gustave Caillebotte

My Favorite Museum Collection Series

>> My Favorite Museum Collection Series 64: My Favorite Sculpture and Painting at Musée d'Art moderne de la Ville de Paris
<< My Favorite Museum Collection Series 62: My Favorite Paintings at Petit Palais, Paris

List of My Favorite Artworks in the Museums I've Visited

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