Many in the art world may not know (myself included) that the late Impressionist artist Claude Monet was a significant art collector in his lifetime. Monet possessed numerous paintings, including masterpieces, by both his predecessors and his contemporaries, from earlier artists Delacroix and Corot to artists during his time, namely, Manet, Renoir and Cézanne. As a collector, Monet discreetly purchased art at auctions or from art dealers.
The Musée Marmottan Monet in Paris will be showing 77 paintings, watercolors and sculptures owned by the artist in an upcoming exhibition entitled “Monet Collectionneur” (“Monet the Collector”) opening September 14, 2017. A number of the artworks come from the museum, which owns the world’s largest number of Monet works, as well as many other artworks that were once owned by the late artist and were donated by Monet’s second son, Michel. Additional Monet works are on loan from New York’s Museum of Modern Art and Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, and various museums throughout the world in Brazil, Japan and Germany.
Monet’s motivations for collecting art were very different from those of the typical art collector. According to curator Ann Dumas of the Royal Academy of Arts in London,
[i]t was rare for artists to buy [art] as an investment. Their overwhelming concern was admiring what another artist had done. They often really loved other artists’ work and using it as an example and an inspiration. It was much more personal and tied to their own creative process.”
As Monet’s art collection was kept very private during the artist’s lifetime, for the Musée Marmottan Monet, curating an exhibition on Monet the art collector has proved challenging. Monet did not maintain records of his art collection, unlike artist Edgar Degas who was another significant artist-collector of the period. It was reported that curating the exhibition was akin to a “police investigation.”
Complicating matters even further, the records of Monet’s personal belongings at Giverny, which were prepared at his death in 1926, were destroyed in World War II. Nevertheless, the museum’s team of curators had managed to document 120 works as having been unequivocally owned by Monet.
The curator of the exhibition, Marianne Mathieu, said of the artist’s collection that “[t]he collection resembles Monet himself: It’s the eye of Monet, it’s his selection,” and that “[t]he collection reveals another reality: an artist with a very open mind.”
The museum’s exhibition is set to run through January 14, 2018.