Five of the works in The Road to Claude Monet are from the Dixon's extraordinary permanent collection of French Impressionist paintings. The two other canvases by Monet are on loan to the Dixon from Diane B. Wilsey, a private art collector in San Francisco, California, and the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. The loan was facilitated by John Buchanan, the Director of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, and former Director of the Dixon.
The Road to Claude Monet also features the Dixon's two Monet canvases, the early Village Street painted in the Normandy town of Trouville sometime between 1869 and 1871, and Port of Dieppe, Evening. The latter work was painted in February 1882 during yet another of Monet's trips to Normandy. Monet was born in Paris, but he had grown up in Le Havre, a city on the Normandy coast.
Rounding out the exhibition are three other works from the Dixon's permanent collection. The first, Camille Corot's The Oaver of the Chilly Road, Fountainbleau was painted in the early 1830s on the main route from Paris to the famous Fountainebleau Forest, the favored destination of the Barbizon School. The second painting is Alfred Sisley's The Quay of the Seine during Snow Season of 1879. Sisley lived in the historic town of Sévres in 1877 and 1878. Like Argenteuil, it too was on the river Seine, but even closer to Paris. Sisley's struggles in the 1870s were as profound as those of his friend Monet, and he was evicted from his house in Sévres the very year that he painted the Dixon canvas. The final work in the exhibition is Camille Pissarro's The Jetty at Le Havre, High Tide, Morning Sun from 1903, painted in Monet's hometown. Just as Monet had embraced painting in series in the 1890s, Pissarro had too. The Le Havre series was Pissarro's last. The artist died later that same year.
The larger exhibition The Road to Impressionism: Barbizon Paintings from the Walters Art Museum (October 19, 2008-January 11, 2009) also includes a painting by Monet, the artist's masterful canvas of Windmills near Zaandam, from 1871.
The earlier of the two Monet paintings on loan to the Dixon is Monet's House at Argenteuil from 1874. Between 1871 and 1878, Monet and his family lived in houses he rented in Argenteuil, a village on the river Seine just a few miles northwest of Paris. There, he produced some of the most characteristic works of the early Impressionist era, including views of the river, its bridges and boats, and expecially his house and beautiful gardens.
Dixon Director Kevin Sharp emphasized, "Agenteuil was where Impressionism as we have come to love and understand it was invented by Monet. The first Impressionists exhibitions--and therefore the first Impressionist paintings the public ever saw--took place while Monet lived in Argenteuil. Of course, those first early Impressionist exhibitions in 1874 and 1876 featured Argenteuil subjects by Monet."
The second Monet painting loaned to the Dixon is Spring Effects at Giverney from 1890. While Monet had struggled in Argentuil in the 1870s to find buyers for his works and to support his family, by 1890, he was a very successful artist. That year, he purchased a house and a substantial property near the town of Giverny, forther removed from Paris than Argenteuil, and there he explored his fascination for the studt of light and color. He famously painted grainstacks again and again at different times of day, different times of year, and under varied weather conditions. His Spring Effects at Giverny is a very early and important part of what would become Monet's most instantly recognizable body of work.
Sharp continued, "We have discovered in these focused exhibition of five, six or seven objects that we can say alot with relatively few works. Our Degas and Dance installaton of earlier in the year is a perfect example. But I think The Road to Claude Monet maybe an even more exceptional opportunity for the people of Memphis to experience what made French Impressionism such and extraordinary artistic movement."