Monet & Ar­chi­tec­ture

The Guardian Weekly - - Culture - Jonathan Jones

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

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