Art,  Museums

The Most Magnificent European Display of Monet & Other Impressionists

The ambition of Oscar-Claude Monet (1840 — 1926) to capture on canvas the passing of the seasons and the changing of daylight transformed how we perceive nature and led the way to 20th-century modernism. If you have the opportunity to view the Hasso Plattner Collection in Potsdam, Germany, you will be enchanted by Monet’s devotion to painting outdoors and his exploration of light on the lush vegetation surrounding his homes in Argenteuil, Vétheuil and Giverny. This amazing collection housed inside the Museum Barberini also visually articulates the major contributions made by other Impressionist painters, most notably Gustave Caillebotte and Alfred Sisley, as well as those who provided the embryonic inspiration for their movement.

Eugene Boudin, Berthe Morisot & Auguste Renoir

Le Havre: The Outer Harbor at Sunset, 1882 by Eugene Boudin
Honfleur: The Port, 1858-62 by Boudin
The Thames, 1875 by Berthe Morisot
Path in the Forest, 1874-77 by Auguste Renoir
Study of a Woman, 1893 by Auguste Renoir
The Pear Tree, 1877 by Auguste Renoir

Gustave Caillebotte

Caillebotte was unique among the Impressionists in several respects. Many of his paintings employ an unusually high vantage point and are finished in a more realistic style with a less vibrant palette than his contemporaries.

Paris Street, Rainy Day, 1877 {Art Institute of Chicago}

During his lifetime, Gustave Caillebotte was better known as a patron of the arts. In fact, he was virtually forgotten as an influential artist until the 1950s when his descendants began to sell the large family collection of his art. After the Art Institute of Chicago acquired the masterpiece “Paris Street, Rainy Day” in 1964, Caillebotte’s body of work was critically reassessed and appreciated. The paintings by Caillebotte in the Hasso Plattner Collection (pictured below) demonstrate why such recognition is well-deserved.

Rue Halévy, View from a Balcony, 1877
Couple on a Walk, 1881
Lilacs and Peonies in Two Vases, 1883
Avenue of the Villa des Fleurs in Trouville, 1883
Rue Halévy, View from the Sixth Floor, 1878

Alfred Sisley

Among the core Impressionists, Sisley was the most consistent and pure in his dedication to painting landscapes en plein air. In marked contrast with Monet (whose work his resembles in subject matter and style), Sisley never sought the brilliantly colored scenery of the South of France and Venice, or the drama of roaring ocean currents along the coastline. With a subdued palette, Sisley focused on landscape painting more consistently than any other Impressionist. Unlike Renoir, Pissarro, Cézanne and Gauguin, Alfred Sisley found that Impressionism alone fulfilled his artistic needs. His oeuvre powerfully invokes atmosphere and epitomizes Classic Impressionism.

Near Louveciennes, 1873
The Loing at Moret, 1883
Winter Morning, 1874
Near Moret-sur-Loing, 1881
The Stone Quarries at Veneux in the Sun, Morning, 1880
My House at Moret, 1892
The Meadow at Veneux-Nadon, 1881
Snow Effect in Louveciennes, 1874
White Hoarfrost, Saint Martin’s Summer. 1874
Road to Louveciennes, Snow Effect, 1874
The Orvanne and the Loing Channel in Winter, 1891
Winter in Moret, 1891

Camille Pissarro, Armand Guillaumin, Henri Le Sidaner & Gustave Loiseau

Pissarro admired the work of Charles-François Daubigny and was tutored by the equally great Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, and we feel obliged to point out that during the period between 1860 and 1885 the mercurial Camille Pissarro went on to surpass both of these magnificent landscape painters. History credits Pissarro with making groundbreaking contributions to both the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist movements, and as the only artist to have shown his art in all eight of the independent Impressionist Exhibitions, held in Paris between 1874 and 1886. Pissarro acted as a father figure not only to all of his colleagues within Impressionism, but to all five of the major Post-Impressionists — Paul Cézanne, Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Georges Seurat and Paul Signac. Pissarro met Seurat and Signac in 1885 and for four years practiced their more scientific theory of Neo-Impressionist painting, which Pissarro abandoned by 1990. He continued to paint until his death in 1903 at the age of 73.

The Eighth and final Impressionist Exhibition signaled the end of Classic Impressionism. By 1886 Pissarro had left the movement, though he did participate in the Eighth Exhibition (along with Georges Seurat and Paul Signac) by presenting Pointillist compositions. Monet, Renoir, Sisley and Caillebotte did not participate, and the only Impressionist works displayed were by Morisot, Gauguin and Guillaumin. Over time, even Guillaumin distanced himself from the thin brush strokes, sense of movement, changing light and open composition which once defined Impressionism {see Winter in Moret by Sisley, above}.

Guillaumin’s strong color combinations, static subject matter, and emphasis on mood and contours — as seen in View of Puy de Dôme, below — are signs of movements to come over the next two decades. The style of Henri Le Sidaner and Gustave Loiseau contained elements of both Impressionism and Pointillism.

View of Puy de Dôme, 1899 by Armand Guillaumin
Boulevard Montmartre, Twilight, 1897 by Camille Pissarro
View of Bazincourt, Sunset, 1892 by Pissarro
Garden and Henhouse at Octave Mirbeau’s, Les Damps, 1892 by Camille Pissarro
Window with Carnations Gerberoy, 1908 by Henri Le Sidaner
The Beach at Fécamp, 1910 by Gustave Loiseau
Hoarfrost at Pontoise, 1906 by Gustave Loiseau

Signac & Pointillism

Paul Signac was studying architecture when he decided to become an artist after attending an exhibition of paintings by Monet. He met Monet and Georges Seurat in 1884, and was impressed by Seurat’s theory of colors and scientific working method in which brushstrokes were replaced with small dots of pure color intended to blend not on the canvas but in the eye of the viewer.

Port-en-Bessin, 1883 by Paul Signac
Clipper, 1887 by Paul Signac
Morning on the Marne at Meaux, 1886 by Albert Dubois-Pillet
The Beach at Saint-Clair, 1896 by Henri-Edmond Cross
Bullfight, 1891-92 by Henri-Edmond Cross
The Port at Sunset, Opus 236 (Saint-Tropez), 1892 by Paul Signac

The Impact of Fauvism

Raoul Dufy, André Derain, Maurice de Vlaminck & Auguste Herbin

The Beach at Sainte-Adresse, 1906 by Raoul Dufy
Landscape near Cassis, 1907-08 by André Derain
The Bridge at Chatou, 1906-07 by Maurice de Vlaminck
The Forest, 1914-18 by Maurice de Vlaminck
Landscape on Corsica, 1907 by Auguste Herbin
The Fishermen, 1907 by Maurice de Vlaminck
Wheatfield in Normandy, 1935 by Raoul Dufy

Monet & Cézanne Revealed the Path Toward Modernism

Grainstacks, 1890

Even Pablo Picasso embraced the path defined by Monet {see Boulevard de Clichy, below} when he arrived in Paris in the autumn of 1900. Monet ventured outside the academies and studios to paint nature as he perceived it. Paul Cézanne examined Impressionist forms of expression in order to derive a new pictorial language, and in the process abandoned perspective. Cézanne used planes of color and small, repetitive brushstrokes that build up on his canvases to form complex fields and images. Through Monet’s intensive examination of changes in light throughout the day (and during different seasons) combined with Cézanne’s new design method of deconstructing the Impressionist color modulation and space principles, these two men built a bridge between Impressionism and the 20th-century movements of Fauvism and Cubism.

Boulevard de Clichy, 1901 by Pablo Picasso
View of the Bay with Sailboat, 1912 by Henry Moret
Forest Interior, 1897-98 by Paul Cézanne

Claude Monet — A Key Precursor to Modernism

The Port of Le Havre, Night Effect, 1872
Frost, 1875
The Port of Zaandam, 1871
Argenteuil, Late Afternoon, 1872
Wheatfield, 1881
Edge of the Cliff at Pourville, 1882
Autumn at Jeufosse, 1884
The Flowered Meadow, 1885
Low Tide at Les Petites-Dalles, 1884
Palazzo Contarini, 1908
Grainstack in the Sunlight, Snow Effect, 1891

Previous Exhibitions at the Museum Barberini

“Impressionism in Russia: Dawn of the Avant-Garde” held from August 2021 through January 2022 brought over 80 works of art to Potsdam from prestigious collections including The State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, considered the world’s foremost depository of Russian fine art. Beginning in the 1860s, the city of Paris attracted painters from the academies in St. Petersburg and Moscow. This eye-opening spectacle (organized by the Barberini in cooperation with the Tretyakov) showed how the Impressionists’ practice of painting outdoors made landscapes popular across Europe, leading to a new artistic freedom that transformed Russian art from Realism to Modernism.

An Olive Tree in the Garden of Gethsemane, 1882 by Valery Polenov

Ilia Repin (1844-1930)

Along the Field Boundary: Vera Repina with Her Children, 1879
The Actress Pelageia Antipovna Strepetova, 1882
A View of the Sviatogorsk Assumption Monastery by the Seversky Donets River, 1880

Konstantin Korovin (1861-1939)

Tea on the Terrace, 1916
Carnations and Violets, 1912
Paris: Café de la Paix, 1906

Abram Arkhipov (1862-1930)

In the North, 1909-10
The Visit, 1914

Valentin Serov (1865-1911)

Lelia Derviz, 1892
In Summer, 1895
At the Window, 1886

Sergei Vinogradov (1869-1938)

Peasant Women (Friends), 1893
At a Country Estate in Autumn, 1907 by Sergei Vinogradov
A Ray of Sunshine, 1901 by Igor Grabar

Monet’s Inspiration was Felt in Russia

While many French Impressionists depicted contemporary life in Paris, exploring the visual connection between balconies and the architecture of grand modern boulevards, many Russian painters followed the lead of Claude Monet by venturing into the countryside to capture nature and leisurely activities in summer residences.

White Winter: Rooks’ Nests, 1904 by Igor Grabar

Stanislav Zhukovsky (1873-1944)

Veranda on the Estate, 1907-10
Blue Snow: Spring, 1899
Easter Still Life, 1915
Joyful May, 1912

Natalia Goncharova (1881-1962)

The Rowers, 1912 by Natalia Goncharova
Imaginary Landscape, 1908 by Mikhail Larionov
Spring Garden in Blossom, 1904 by Kazimir Malevich
Liza in the Sun, 1907 by Robert Falk
Street in the Parisian Suburb of Saint-Martin, 1901 by Nicolas Tarkhoff
City at Night: A Rayonist Composition, 1912-14 by Mikhail Larionov
Bar, 1915 by Georgy Yakulov

“Monet: Places” — Where Monet Chose to Live and to Paint

Claude Monet’s painted canvases were the subject of the exhibition “Monet. Orte” in 2020 in Potsdam, Germany. Organized in cooperation with the Denver Art Museum (Colorado USA), the paintings diplayed inside Potsdam’s Museum Barberini followed Monet’s journeys from the forests near Paris to the seaside in London and Venice, and along the coastlines of France. To further study color, reflections on the water, and the varied effects of weather conditions on nature, Monet also traveled to the Netherlands and Norway. The German word “orte” refers to the “places” where Claude Monet chose to paint and to live.

Normandy & the Forest of Fontainebleau

Monet, La Pointe de La Heve at Low Tide
“La Pointe de la Héve at Low Tide” (1865)

Although born in Paris, Monet grew up in Le Havre, a booming port city in the Normandy region of northern France that was the country’s second largest harbor at the time. After an early career as a caricaturist, he turned his attention to Normandy’s seacoast and lush countryside, accompanying established realist painters like Eugene Boudin, Johan Barthold Jongkind and, later, Charles-François Daubigny on painting excursions. These artists mentored the young Monet, encouraging him to paint outdoors — en plein air. The experience of direct contact with nature set Monet on the artistic path he would follow from then on.

Monet, Farmyard in Normandy
“Farmyard in Normandy” (1862-63)
Monet, The Seashore at Sainte-Adress
“The Seashore at Sainte-Adresse” (1864)
Monet, Path in the Forest
“Path in the Forest” (1865)
Monet, Coastal Landscape
“Coastal Landscape” (1864)

Modern Life: Paris & Its Surroundings

For anyone wishing to become an artist in the second half of the 1800s, Paris was the place to be. The city bustled with energy and optimism, and opportunities to learn and exhibit one’s works were plentiful. The Impressionist movement, which rejected the rules of the Academy of Fine Arts about how and what to paint, started in Paris. Monet and like-minded artists began experimenting with loose brushwork and pure, unblended colors to capture the light and movement they observed directly in nature and in everyday life around the city. Short trips to the countryside for leisure activities also became easier, as a rapidly developing railway system now offered fast access to several flourishing resort towns.

“The Rose Bushes in the Garden at Montgeron” (1876)
“The Tuileries” (1876)

Escaping to The Netherlands

“Boats at Zaandam” (1871)

After moving to London in 1870 to escape the Franco-Prussian War and the civil unrest that followed, Monet spent four months in Holland in 1871. This was the first of several trips to the Netherlands throughout his life. During his first visit he lived in the small town of Zaandam near Amsterdam. Zaandam’s network of crisscrossing canals, distinctive windmills, lively river life, and quaint, jumbled architecture offered a change in scenery that pleased and fascinated Monet.

Monet, "Tulip Fields at Sassenheim, near Leiden" (1886)
“Tulip Fields at Sassenheim, near Leiden” (1886)
“The Port of Zaandam” (1871)

Settling in Argenteuil

Argenteuil, Late Afternoon, 1872
Autumn on the Seine, Argenteuil, 1873
Monet, "The Seine at Argenteuil" (1875)
The Seine at Argenteuil, 1875

In late 1871, Monet returned from the Netherlands and settled in Argenteuil, a fashionable escape for city dwellers only fifteen minutes by train from Paris. A haven for pleasure boating and weekend excursions, Argenteuil offered an appealing mix of modernity and pastoral serenity. Accompanied by his wife Camille and son Jean during his seven-year stay, he enjoyed domestic happiness and financial stability. His contentment is evident in these peaceful paintings. Argenteuil’s location by the Seine must have played a key role in his choice to settle here, as his subsequent moves to Vétheuil and Giverny followed the path of the Seine deeper into the French countryside.

Pure Landscapes — Vétheuil

Wheatfield, 1881
The Garden at Vétheuil, 1881
Landscape in île Saint-Martin, 1881

In 1878 Monet moved to Vétheuil, leaving behind increasingly populated Argenteuil. Located on the banks of the river Seine about a three-hour train ride from Paris, Vétheuil was truly in the countryside — a sleepy, medieval village largely untouched by the industrialization that had changed the look of Argenteuil throughout the 1870s. Surrounded by this more isolated and rural environment, Monet chose to paint views that centered “on nature” rather than “on the people out in nature,” thus focusing on pure landscapes. His attention to seasonal changes introduced a sense of introspection and immersion in the natural world that would occupy him for the rest of his life.

Monet, "The Road to Vétheuil" (1879)
The Road to Vétheuil, 1879

In Winter: France and Norway

Frost, 1875
Monet, "Sunset at Lavacourt" (1880)
Sunset at Lavacourt, 1880
Coming into Giverny in Winter, 1885

In the winter of 1879-80, it was so cold that the Seine froze. When it thawed, the blocks of ice flowing on the river offered a landscape unified by a palette dominated by white and fractured by fragments of frozen snow moving on the surface. Winter scenes from various locales recur in Monet’s work. Monet returned to the subject of an iced-over Seine during the harsh winter of 1892-93 while he was living in Giverny, and he traveled to Norway in 1895 to capture the snow-blanketed views of its countryside. With the subtle nuances of his color palette, Monet reminds us that white can indeed be the most complex of all colors. 

The Houses in the Snow, Norway, 1895 by ErgSap*
Snow Effect at Limetz, 1886
Floes at Bennecourt, 1893

Monet and Color

Grainstack in the Sunlight, Snow Effect, 1891

Monet caught the subtle nuances of color even within such a seemingly monochromatic scene as a snow-laden landscape. But he was often frustrated by color’s fleeting nature. Monet said, “I’m chasing the merest sliver of color…. I want to grasp the intangible…. Color, any color, lasts a second, sometimes three or four minutes at most. What to do, what to paint in three or four minutes? They’re gone, you have to stop. Ah, how painting makes me suffer!”

Autumn at Jeufosse, 1884
“Low Tide at Les Petites-Dalles” (1884)

Rocks, Sea, and Sky — Northern Coasts

Étretat, the Cliff and the Porte d’Aval, 1885
Monet, "Path in the Wheat Fields at Pourville" (1882)
Path in the Wheat Fields at Pourville, 1882

Monet was fascinated by the meeting of rocks, sea, and sky on the coasts of Normandy and Brittany in northern France and returned repeatedly throughout his life to paint their towns and villages. In his depictions of the windswept cliffs and white-capped water, Monet evoked a sense of nature’s power that was altogether different from the peaceful images he created of the Seine valley. By intentionally choosing a high vantage point, Monet maximized the dramatic encounter of natural elements.

Monet, "Boats on the Beach at Pourville, Low Tide" (1882)
Boats on the Beach at Pourville, Low Tide, 1882
Monet, "The Rocks at Pourville, Low Tide" (1882)
The Rocks at Pourville, Low Tide, 1882
Monet, "The Cliff, Étretat, Sunset" (1882-83)
The Cliff, Étretat, Sunset, 1882-83


Strada Romana at Bordighera, 1884
Monet, "View of Bordighera" (1884)
View of Bordighera, 1884
The Fort of Antibes, 1888
The Rio della Salute, 1908
Villas at Bordighera, 1884
Bordighera, Italy, 1884
Palazzo Ducale, 1908
Paintings from Monet's first journey to Venice in 1908
Paintings from Monet’s first journey to Venice in 1908
Palazzo Contarini, 1908

Encountering the intense light and kaleidoscopic colors of the Italian and French Riviera in 1884 and 1888 was transformative for Monet. The enchanting light and exotic vegetation of the Mediterranean was unlike anything he had experienced before and inspired a number of bright landscape paintings. Monet felt he needed jewel-like colors to render accurately the buildings, palm trees, and azure water — “I’ve caught this magical landscape and it’s the enchantment of it that I’m so keen to render. Of course lots of people will protest that it’s quite unreal and that I’m out of my mind, but that’s just too bad,” Monet said. Likewise, when he visited Venice for the first time in 1908, Monet was again struck by the quality of light and the myriad reflections it offered.

The Colors of Fog: Le Havre to London

The Port of Le Havre, Night Effect, 1873

In the second half of the 1800s, London was the largest city in the world — a busy multicultural center of industry, banking, and trade. Monet traveled to London for the first time in 1870, and then made a string of visits around the turn of the century. Bridges, reflections of light, and shimmering veils of haze and mist over the river characterize Monet’s views of the English capital, often enveloped in a distinctive fog. He stated, “The fog in London assumes all sorts of colors; there are black, brown, yellow, green, purple fogs and the interest in painting is to get the objects as seen through all these fogs.”

Monet, "Waterloo Bridge, Sunlight Effect" (1903). Photo by Regan Vercruysse.
Waterloo Bridge, Sunlight Effect, 1903. Photo by Regan Vercruysse.*

Monet & the Seine at Giverny

Monet, "Morning on the Seine, near Giverny" (1897)
Morning on the Seine, near Giverny, 1897

The Seine, the long river that begins in the east of France, crosses through Paris, and ends in the English Channel, was a regular feature in Monet’s paintings throughout his career. For an artist enamored of water and attracted by the challenge of capturing its reflections, the Seine was an ideal choice. Monet’s search for direct contact with nature motivated him to follow the example of his friend and fellow painter Charles-François Daubigny and turn a boat into a floating studio, where, surrounded by water, he could paint his poetic and personal depictions of mornings on the Seine.

Monet, "The Seine at Giverny" (1897)
The Seine at Giverny, 1897

In 1883, Monet moved his family to Giverny, about ten miles further down the Seine from their previous residence in Vétheuil. Until his death in 1926, the small farming community remained his cherished home, which he recorded in countless landscape paintings. It was here that he designed his opulent gardens with the lavish waterlily pond that was to become the almost obsessive focus of his late work. But before that, his interests mainly lay in the agricultural and pastoral setting of Giverny, with its rows of towering poplar trees and fields of flowers, oats, and corn. He made multiple variations of grainstacks in the changing light of the seasons and times of day, resulting in his first comprehensive series devoted to one single motif.

Oat Field, 1890
Poplars at Giverny, 1887
Monet, "Peony Garden" (1887)
Peony Garden, 1887
Monet, "Poplars on the Epte" (1891)
Poplars on the Epte, 1891

A Man-Made Paradise: Monet’s Water-Lily Pond

The Water-Lily Pond, 1918
Monet, "Rose-Arches at Giverny" (1913)
Rose-Arches at Giverny, 1913
Monet, "Water-Lilies" (1908)
Water Lilies, 1908

By purchasing an adjacent plot of land, diverting the flow of a nearby stream, and importing quantities of exotic plants, Monet created a magnificent water garden especially designed as a setting for plein-air painting. Modeled on Asian examples, it included a waterlily pond with a Japanese-style footbridge. The daily view of this man-made paradise and its constant changes with the hours of the day and the seasons inspired him to colorful depictions of nature, whose often radically free brushwork anticipated the abstract painting of the mid-20th Century.

Water Lilies, 1914-17
Monet, "The Water Lily Pond" (1918)
The Water-Lily Pond, 1918

All images of seascapes and landscapes shown above were taken by us in Potsdam, Germany and in Denver, Colorado, where this exhibition was shown under the title Claude Monet: The Truth of Nature from October 21, 2019 through February 2, 2020. Two photos taken from other sources are marked with an asterisk (*). We owe special thanks to the Denver Art Museum for presenting the greatest display of Claude Monet paintings since the Art Institute of Chicago organized Monet: A Retrospective in 1995. We credit and thank the Denver Art Museum for some of the text which appears alongside our photographic images in this article.

The Largest Retrospective Devoted to Monet in a German Museum

We present this article for your pleasure, realizing that many of our readers and followers around the world were unable to view the exhibits “Monet: Places” — the largest retrospective ever devoted to Claude Monet by a museum in Germany — and “Impressionism in Russia” at the Museum Barberini.

The special exhibit at the Museum Barberini entitled “Surrealism & Magic: Enchanted Modernity” (which ended on January 29, 2023 in Germany) is reviewed herein in our article “The Best Surrealism in Venice and Potsdam

“The Sun: Source of Light in Art” closed in Potsdam on June 11, 2023. If you wish to see some highlights from this exhibition, please read our article entitled “A Unique & Fabulous Pilgrimage to the Marmottan in Paris

Current & Upcoming Exhibitions at the Barberini in Potsdam, Germany

“Edvard Munch: Trembling Earth” (November 18, 2023 — April 1, 2024).

This Munch exhibit was on view at the Clark Art Institute, Williamstown MA, U.S.A. from June 10 through October 15, 2023.

The Sun, 1912 by Edvard Munch {Munchmuseet, Oslo}

According to the Clark Art Institute’s website, “While Munch is best known for expertly capturing emotion in human figures, many of his works feature landscape. This exhibition examines how he animated nature to express psychological states, celebrate the abundance of the earth, and ponder the mysteries of the forest during a time of rapid industrialization. In his paintings and prints of the Oslo Fjord shoreline in Norway and the Baltic coast in Germany, Munch explored the changes brought about by increased tourism, partially the result of health-reform initiatives extolling the virtues of outdoor activity. Munch developed his own worldview that connected science, human biology, plant life, and the solar system. His landscape-based prints, drawings, and paintings from the 1890s to the 1940s reveal an artist fascinated by humankind’s interaction with the earth and the impact of one on the other. 

Edvard Munch: Trembling Earth features brilliantly hued landscapes, stunning figure portraits, and an impressive selection of drawings and prints, including a lithograph of the artist’s most celebrated work, The Scream. The exhibition includes thirty-five works from the Munchmuseet’s world-renowned collection, and more than forty paintings and prints drawn from private collections and rarely exhibited publicly.”

After Trembling Earth closes at the Museum Barberini in Potsdam on April 1, 2024, it will travel to the Munchmuseet (MUNCH) in Oslo for its final display from April 27 — August 24, 2024.

The Yellow Log, 1912 by Edvard Munch (Munchmuseet, Oslo}

Thank you for visiting. We encourage you to read our other articles, we appreciate your opinions, and we look forward to your comments regarding the greatest Impressionist Oscar-Claude Monet!

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