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Friday, April 8, 2011

Monet's Water Lilies triptych at the Nelson-Atkins

Brought to New York in the 1950's Claude Monet's Water Lilies triptych was separated, and the individual panels were sold to the St. Louis Art Museum, the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Nelson-Atkins Art Museum. The last time that these panels were exhibited together as they were meant to seen was in 1979, and now in collaboration with the other two museums, the Nelson-Atkins reunites the right-hand panel from its collection with the other ones, making this a rare opportunity to observe one of the most famous works of who is considered the most important Impressionist painter.

Each panel measures 6-feet tall by 14-feet wide and is believed that Monet started working on these in 1915, then continuosly reworking them in his studio at Giverny until the year of his death in 1926, according to Nicole Myers, Associate Curator at the Nelson-Atkins. This is most evident due to the fact that through x-ray imaging, light boxes, and computerized cross-sections, conservators have discovered the artist obsessively changed the composition over the years. For example, beneath a cluster of water lilies on the Nelson-Atkins canvas, conservators found the image of an agapanthus plant that Monet suppressed halfway through painting it. An x-ray of the agapanthus will be part of the exhibition. "We don’t even know for sure whether he considered them finished," said Simon Kelly, who, as curator of modern and contemporary art at the Saint Louis Art Museum and former associate curator of European painting and sculpture at the Nelson-Atkins, has been working on this exhibition for more than three years.

Through a range of archival photographs and a rarely seen film from 1915, showing Monet painting in his garden, wearing a white suit and a straw hat, with a cigarette dangling from his mouth, the exhibition will bring to life the beauty of the garden and his passion for it.

Visitors will be able to use touch screens to "make your own Monet", which can be displayed on the museum's website, while another permits a close-up observation of the artist's loose and short brush strokes. Another panel can be used by visitors to describe their experience, description that will then be projected in light on the walls of that room.

In a separate, dedicated space, the paintings themselves will be displayed with side panels at slight angles to recreate something of the panoramic experience of the Musée de l'Orangerie in Paris where several of Monet’s water lily triptychs are mounted.

The Water Lilies triptych will be on view, from April 9 to Aug. 7, 2011 at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City (MO, USA), after which it will travel to the Saint Louis Art Museum in the fall of 2011, before showing at the Cleveland Museum of Art at a date to be confirmed.

With the exception of a triptych in New York’s Museum of Modern Art, this is the only Monet triptych in the United States.

This exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities. In Kansas City the exhibition is supported by the Hartley Family Foundation, Carol and Fred Logan and the Campbell-Calvin Fund and Elizabeth C. Bonner Charitable Trust for exhibitions. Frontier Airlines is the official airline sponsor.

This article contains excerpts from the museum's press release

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