Years of secrecy over as great painter’s private collection goes on display in Paris
THE secret art collection amassed by Claude Monet, the father of Impressionism, went on display for the first time in Paris yesterday, 90 years after the great painter’s death.
French art historians spent four years tracking down the startling collection of work by contemporaries including Renoir, Cezanne, Pissarro and Delacroix that Monet secretly bought.
“I am selfish. My collection is for myself only and for a few friends,” the master once said. Marianne Mathieu said: “We knew really very little about the collection.”
She is one of the curators of the show at the Marmottan Monet Museum, which has brought together the bulk of the collection.
“Monet didn’t speak about his private life and kept his art collection just as private.”
He had kept the paintings upstairs in his private apartments at Giverny in Normandy far from prying eyes, Mathieu said.
While the great and good came to visit him as he painted his famous water lilies, only a privileged few were allowed a peek at the canvasses he kept for himself.
An inventory was taken by experts when Monet died in 1926, but it was destroyed during World War 2.
So Mathieu and her colleague Dominique Lobstein had to hunt down the 120 works, which included several by Manet and Boudin and more than 20 albums of prints by the Japanese artist Hokusai.
Monet began building his collection when he was still on the breadline with gifts from other painter friends like Renoir and Manet. Even then his mania for privacy was evident.
He was reluctant to sit for Manet with his wife and model Camille, and in the unfinished The Painter Monet in His Studio that Manet later gave him, his face is only sketched.