Monet & Architecture
This is a ludicrously pleasurable holiday in Monet’s senses. There’s no slow, dull buildup as we wait patiently for him to grow as an artist. He’s already bloody good in his 1864 painting Chapel Notre-Dame-de-Grace, Honfleur, done when he was 24. For Monet was a prodigy, a natural, born to paint. He had – by the time he painted that Norman church – a uniquely sensitive eye for nature.
That vision takes off and flies in the first few canvases of this superb show. Street in Sainte-Adresse, painted in 1867, has a dappled silver-grey cloudscape hanging over it that is so fresh, so alive. And there are 78 paintings here that get better and better the more you look.
Stand with Monet on a wooded rocky shore looking across glittering turquoise water at the golden skyline of Antibes in his 1888 painting Antibes, Morning. Walk with him in the haze of a snowy day delighting in the new-born white world in Snow Effect, Giverny, painted in 1893.
As you wallow in this party for the retina, strange things happen. Places loom, full of history, throbbing with emotion. His paintings of the gothic facade of Rouen Cathedral, painted in the early 1890s, are mind-stretching marvels. From a distance – a considerable distance – they look eerily like Victorian photographs, as if he was inspired by sepia postcards of this venerable monument. Go closer – as close as the guards allow – and the illusion crumbles in a matted, rough, abstract surface of wild colour. At the National Gallery, London, until 29 July