Author(s): Paul H. Tucker
Monet’s famous series paintings--the haystacks, poplars, and Rouen Cathedral that he painted in the 1890s--have long been seen as the supreme realization of his interest in light, color and fleeting moments in time. In this beautiful new book, Paul Hayes Tucker provides a fresh context for these heralded canvases. Drawing on a wide array of sources, from popular broadsides to political speeches, Tucker proposes that Monet’s series paintings were not only an artistic response to the beauties of nature but were also related to contemporary events in France and to Monet’s determination to provide active leadership for his nation’s artistic production. Monet, who had been accused earlier in his career of disregarding professional decorum and denigrating the aesthetic values that France held dear, was hailed by the end of the 1890s as one of the finest landscape painters of the century and as a great national artist. Tucker examines the circumstances that contributed to this shift in opinion: the changes in Monet’s art and in his life, an evolution in public taste, and the maturation of concerns the French had about their country and its place in the world. Tucker looks carefully at the development of Monet’s art before the 1890s, analyzing in particular the cultural pressures of the 1880s that caused Monet to turn to serial painting. He then focuses in considerable detail on the major and minor series from the ensuing decade, examining how they were painted, their critical reception, and the meaning they held for Monet and his public. This engrossing study provides new subtlety to the series paintings, showing that their rich, encrusted surfaces, extraordinary light effects, and dazzling repetition of images touched deep aesthetic and nationalistic chords. In addition, as Tucker sets the paintings in this larger historical context, he also is able to give us a fresh perspective on Monet’s role in the continuities and contradictions of fin-de-si#65533;cle French culture. Publication of this book coincides with an exhibition of Monet’s series paintings of the 1890s. The exhibition will open in Boston in February 1990 and will move to Chicago in May and London in September. Paul Hayes Tucker, associate professor of art at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, is also the author of Monet at Argenteuil.