Years of se­crecy over as great painter’s pri­vate col­lec­tion goes on dis­play in Paris

The Herald (South Africa) - - WORLD - An­toine Froide­fond

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.

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