Claude Monet The Parc Monceau
Painted in 1878 and first exhibited at the fourth independent exhibition of the Impressionists in 1879, Claude Monet's The Parc Monceau is certainly less famous than other of the artist works that sit in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but is arguably the most ephemeral, eye-catching, and relentlessly positive. In this brief interstice between the artist's initial critical condemnation that coincided with the first independent Impressionist exhibitions, and the decline and death of his first wife and muse in 1879, The Parc Monceau coincides with a period of apparent joy and enthusiasm. The Parc Monceau is a painting of a large urban park in the eight arrondissement of Paris, which had been open since 1861. A haunt of the idle rich and wealthy bankers, Monet must have felt the stark contrast between these promenading bourgeoisie and himself, a struggling painter. But if he did, it has not reflected in the canvas. This stunning portrayal of urban retreat seems almost to waver between two- and three dimensionality, and is a testament to the artist's astonishing skill and scope.
In March of the same year Monet's second son was born, and his painting The Rue Montorgueil in Paris, painted sometime after June 30th, is a jingoistic bellow of good-fortune and patriotic fervour. The artist, it seems, was in love with life and with his country. 1878 was also the year of the World's Fair, a giant cosmopolitan festival that drew cultural, scientific, political, and artistic minds into one trans-nationalistic vortex. Certainly, this was a year for the artist to transfer onto the canvas the excitement that was beginning to surround the burgeoning Impressionist movement. In The Parc Monceau one can see the serenity and joy the artist felt during this bombastic summer. Yet, the good times were about to fade, as Monet and his first wife Camille were forced to flee their village idyll of Argenteuil due to a vast accumulation of unpaid debts. Packing his wife and son off to Scotland, Monet painted what might just be his last work set in Paris. In this regard The Parc Monceau is a stunning artefact of what could have been. Having painted a number of urban studies, Monet was forced to abandon the city as the setting for his majestic studies of light, and installed himself in the town of Vetheuil, rarely returning to Paris at all.
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