You Can Buy Monet Reproduction Oil Paintings at Bohemian Fine Art
When David Steel floated the idea of a Claude Monet exhibition at the
, he dreamed of hosting a show featuring 15 oil paintings by the Impressionist master.
Museum director Larry Wheeler wasn't interested. His advice: "Dream bigger."
The result is 'Monet in
", an exhibition of 50 artworks painted during Monet's years in the coastal French province. It's the kind of ambitious show typically seen at much grander museums such the Metropolitan Museum of Art in
or the Art Institute of Chicago, and one pulled together only when Steel joined with museums in
to share costs and call in favours from larger institutions.
"In the Southeast, there are not all that many museums that have the wherewithal to do a Monet exhibition," said Steel, the museum's curator of European art, who has worked on the exhibition for more than five years. "We've been in for existence 50 years now and we've never done it. It's a big opportunity for us and for people in the region.
"Monet is the best-known artist in the world, but not all that many people have seen 50 Monets in one place. And there's nothing like seeing these pictures face-to-face".
Steel's original idea was for a show of about 15 pictures built around one of the museum's two Monets: The Cliff, Etreat, Sunset. He learned later that the museum' s other Monet, The Seine at Givemy, Moming Mists, was also painted in
Then Wheeler said that he wanted more examples of the artist's work, sparking the idea for a large-scale Monet exhibition focused on the painter's time in
, a theme no other museum had explored. Over the next five years, the North Carolina museum made deals with the Legion of Honor museum in San Francisco, which handled shipping,' insurance and transportation, and the Cleveland Museum of Art, which took care of the show's finances.
"It's always good to have impossible goals," said Rick Brettell, a professor at the University of Texas at Dallas and one of the world's foremost ,experts on Impressionist paintings. .
"In a way, regional museums have been content with their status as regional museums and have not acted aggressively in the marketplace of exhibitions. And this exhibition has taught us that everybody has the right to see Monets, not just people who live in
An exhibition of works by Monet carries unique complications because of the man's popularity. In 1995, a show at the Art Institute of Chicago attracted so many visitors that scalpers were selling tickets to it for six times their face value. More than 301,000 people visited "Monet in 'Monet in
', at the Legion of Honor before the exhibition closed on September 17, according to Barbara Traisman, spokeswoman for the Fine Arts Museums of
To build the show, requests for Monet paintings went out to between 75 and 80 museums and individual collectors across the world. Such requests are usually turned down by museums unwilling to lose their biggest draw and by individual owners worried that the oil paintings could end up on loan, full-time, instead of gracing the walls of their homes.
So Steel and curators in
relied on their past willingness to loan works from their museums and started to call in favours. Brettell did the mathematics and realised that the three museums had, over the previous 20 years, loaned hundreds of paintings to museums in
"When you remind these terribly grand institutions used to everyone lending to them and never lending to anyone, it even gives these snobby directors pause," Brettell said. "It created the conditions for great works of art coming back to those cities rather than great works of art leaving those cities."
Monet's iconic works from
, where he had a house at Giverny, included paintings of water lilies, haystacks, Rouen Cathedral and the
. The advent of photography freed Monet and other artists from realism, and they no longer felt obligated to accurately reflect colour, light and scenery. Monet used short, choppy brushstrokes that make his oil painting appear blurry when viewed up close but clearer when the viewer stands at a distance. His painting Impression:
gave the movement its name.
Steel calls the day he hangs such great artworks "the best day of the exhibition". That's when all the paintings are in the gallery, the wall labels are ready and benches are brought in for visitors.
"The people of this region are not going to have seen anything like this exhibition," he said, delighted by the heavy turn-out in
. "I always knew this was going to be a pretty special exhibition. But it's so nice when you're getting confirmation of that even before it comes to your house."
, Lynn Orr, curator of European art at the Fine Arts Museums, was feeling a bit dismayed.
"What a privilege it's been to have the Metropolitan's
," she said. It's one of a handful of the greatest pictures that Monet ever painted. To have that hanging here for three months, it's been wonderful."
" will run at the North Carolina Museum of Art from October 15 to January 14, and at the Cleveland Museum of Art from February 18 to May 20.