‘I don’t care about Monet’

PARIS — In the French capital’s Musée Rodin, it’s easy to miss the decades-long friendship between two of France’s most legendary artists.

On the second floor of the building, Belle-Île by Claude Monet is displayed in a small, gilded frame. The painting is one of a series devoted to the rugged coastline of a small island off Brittany, where the great Impressionist artist spent nearly three months in the autumn of 1886.

“I am in a wondrous wilderness, with fearsome rocks and a sea of ​​unbelievable color; I am really moved,” Monet wrote in a letter to French painter Gustave Caillebotte.

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Monet has completed 39 works devoted to Belle-Île-en mer’s striking landscapes, harsh climates and changing lights, one of which he gave to Rodin in exchange for a copy of the sculptor. Jeune mere dans la grotte.



Claude Monet / Public Domain

Born just two days apart, it is unclear exactly how and when the Impressionist painter first met the master sculptor. Art historians tend to agree that it was likely through the art circles that both men frequented the late 19th century, including writers and critics Octave Mirbeau and Gustave Geoffroy . They bond because of their shared pursuit of nature in their works – “I am fencing, wrestling with the sun,” writes Monet to Rodin from Provence – and Rodin credits Monet for “helping me understand light, clouds and sea”.

In the late 19th century, several other paintings in Monet’s Belle-Île-en-mer A series of works are displayed alongside Rodin’s works at a prestigious gallery in Paris, where a longtime friendship between the two runs into trouble.

The gallery belonged to a famous art dealer named Georges Petit, who was one of the important players in the French art world towards the end of the century. His eponymous gallery located on the Rue de Sèze not far from the Madeleine Cathedral displayed the works of a number of notable Impressionist painters, including Monet, as well as a number of sculptures by Rodin. In 1889, Galerie Georges Petit held a double exhibition in the space, displaying 145 paintings by Monet and three dozen works by Rodin.

Even though Rodin was the more prestigious of the two at the time, he still couldn’t get over it – even by his good friend. During an early morning visit to the gallery on the opening day of the show, he embarked on a stealthy reorganization project that resulted in a prominent display of his monument. Les Bourgeois de Calais in front of a large wall of oil paintings by Monet.


Auguste Rodin with one of the sculptures behind him.

Illustrated by The Daily Beast / Culture Club / Getty

“The display in the back, my best works, is completely lost because of the position of the Rodin team,” Monet complained in a bitter letter to Petit. “The damage was done…it was devastating to me.”

He added that the two artists may have collaborated in arranging the works resulting in “a beautiful arrangement without harming each other.”

But not Rodin. On the contrary, he is ready to throw his best friend under the proverbial bus.

“I don’t care about Monet,” he told writer Edmond de Goncourt. “I don’t care about anyone! The only thing I care about is myself.”

The Galerie Georges Petit closed in the early 1930s (the space is now used by a massage therapist’s office), and 145 works by Monet are on display at the friendship-changing joint exhibition scattered across the around the world in museums or as part of private collections. I was able to see a copy of the original exhibition guide and was surprised to learn that there are only a handful of Monets in France. Among them are La Gare Saint-Lazare, on display at the Musée D’Orsay and Vetheuil dans le Brouillard, which is hung at the Musée Marmottan.


La Gare Saint-Lazare

Claude Monet / Public Domain

Many of Rodin’s works in the fateful performance have found a home in his museum, including Tête coupée de Saint Jean and Galatea, the second of which, when viewed on file, appears to be gazing dreamily out of a second-floor window. Goblins behind the fallout, Les Bourgeois de Calais, are displayed in the gardens of the museum.

But Rodin’s disdain for Monet clearly extends beyond his selfish thoughts at the exhibit. The sculptor is almost as famous as a tireless promiscuous (satyr was a more appropriate word in his day) as well as he is for his art. In addition to his decade-long heated affair with Camille Claudel, he is also rumored to have been in contact with numerous models, dancers and other girls – all while still dating his longtime partner. her own, Rose Beuret.

Obviously, late Washington Post Agnes, the mother of publisher Katharine Graham, then a young American abroad, also had a #MeToo-esque partnership with Rodin.

“…She felt threatened one day when he locked the door of the studio, turned off the phone, and started hugging and kissing her,” Graham wrote in his autobiography. “She begged him that she loved him for his wonderful art and upbringing, which she didn’t want to lose, and wonderfully, he accepted.”

Graham added that Rodin however could not understand why the young woman refused to pose naked on horseback while wielding a javelin.

But back to Monet, whose descendants are said to have also suffered from his friend’s wild whims. Recalling dinner at the painter’s house, Mirbeau, their mutual friend, said that Rodin was “so intently looking at Monet’s four beautiful daughters” that one by one they left the table.

However, despite Rodin’s exhibit and the longing stares at his descendants, Monet seems to have at last forgave his arch-enemy. Rodin continued to visit Monet at his home in Giverny, where in 1894 Monet introduced him to another giant of French painting, Paul Cézanne.

“I am very pleased with your letter,” Rodin wrote to Monet in 1897. “Because you know that we are both preoccupied with pursuing our own natures, expressions of friendship can be painful. suffering, but the same brotherly affection, the same love of art, made us friends forever. ”

Monet, in turn, wrote the preface to Rodin’s portfolio of solo concerts in Paris 11 years after their failed concert. In category, Monet described him was “a unique man of his time–great even among the greatest.”

During my visit the museum was hosting a joint Picasso-Rodin exhibition and I couldn’t help but wonder how Rodin and his notoriously oversized ego would react when his works She shares space with the works of the master artists of history. Given his conduct at the Georges Petit Galerie some 130 years ago, I’m inclined to think it’s not going to go so well.

The Rodin-Picasso show lasts until early January, after that Le Baiser and other works of the father of Cubism will be transported back to town to the National Museum of Picasso-Paris. Monet’s Belle-ÎleHowever, like the other pieces in the museum’s permanent collection, it will remain in its place.

On its website, the Rodin Museum describes the relationship between Rodin and Monet as une amité fidele (a loyal friendship). But I find it fitting that Rodin, who paired Monet with at least one stormy moment of his own, would end with a painting inspired by jagged cliffs and stormy seas. . ‘I don’t care about Monet’

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