Exhibit: ‘Invisible’ Monet, Leon, was key to impressionism


PARIS — Behind some nice males, there’s a greater brother.

Claude Monet’s older sibling is the main target of a landmark Paris exhibit illuminating the hitherto unknown function Leon Monet performed within the French impressionist painter’s life and artwork. Leon — a colour chemist 4 years his senior — is now understood to have been vital within the emergence of Monet’s business success in addition to the famed colour palette that created masterpieces just like the “Water Lilies” collection.

“It’s never been known before, but without Leon there would not have really been a Monet — the artist the world knows today,” stated Geraldine Lefebvre, exhibit curator on the Musee du Luxembourg.

“His rich big brother supported him in the first period of his life when he had no money or clients and was starving,” she stated. “But more than that. The vivid palette Monet was famous for came from the synthetic textile dye colors Leon created” within the city of Rouen — website of a few of Claude’s best-known work.

The groundbreaking exhibit is the fruit of years of investigation by Lefebvre, who visited Monet’s great-grandchildren, studied household albums and delivered to mild a masterly portrait of Leon by Claude that Leon hid away in a dusty personal assortment and has by no means earlier than been seen by the general public. The 1874 portray reveals Leon with a black swimsuit, stern expression and pink — virtually wine-flushed — cheeks.

The exhibit dispels a long-held view that Claude and his older brother have been estranged.

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“Historians always thought the two brothers had nothing to do with each other. It was assumed because there are no photographs of Claude and Leon together, and no correspondence. In reality, they were incredibly close throughout their life,” Lefebvre stated.

The brothers had an argument within the early 1900s and which will clarify why no direct traces of the connection exist. “Maybe Leon got rid of the traces, maybe it was Claude. Maybe it was jealousy. We will never know. It is a mystery,” Lefebvre stated.

What is now recognized is that Leon would wine and dine his youthful brother, introduce him to different artists, give him cash, and patronize his artwork — shopping for it up at public sale at excessive costs to spice up his status.

“One of the problems was because they shared the surname it seemed like (Claude) Monet was buying back his own pictures. But it was Leon,” stated professor Frances Fowle, senior curator of French artwork on the National Galleries of Scotland.

“This exhibit is important as it throws light on Leon Monet, who up until now has been an invisible figure. It also reveals the wider network at work. Leon was a key figure,” Fowle added.

Leon’s affect went past his brother: He financially supported different impressionists similar to Camille Pissarro, Auguste Renoir and Alfred Sisley — a few of whom would join round his dinner desk in Rouen, the place the wine would move freely. Claude adopted his brother to Rouen, the place he painted his Rouen cathedral masterpieces.

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Monet additionally labored for his older brother as a colour assistant, a pivotal second not solely in his life — however presumably within the emergence of impressionism as we all know it.

Leon would dissolve carbon to create a chemical known as aniline, which created unimaginable artificial colours that pure pigments couldn’t compete with. One of the sooner examples of Leon’s colour filtering down into Monet’s artwork is from an 1860s illustration — earlier than he was well-known — that’s featured within the exhibit. Monet drew his future spouse Camille in a gown with an eye-popping inexperienced that had by no means been seen earlier than.

“The French press coined the term ‘Monet green,’” Lefebvre stated, including that journalists have been initially mocking of it. “At the time, they said he would make a good dye artist.”

However, each Monets had the final snort.

Claude Monet based impressionism — a time period coined from his 1872 portray “Impression, Sunrise” — to grow to be one of the vital celebrated painters of the final two centuries. And by impressionism’s top on the finish of the nineteenth century, an unimaginable “80% of all impressionists’ work” used the artificial colours borrowed from Leon, in line with Lefebvre.

These artificial hues, which have been innovative on the time, enabled members of the group to depict the fleeting impression of the second with shifting colours and luminosity.

“Who knows the exact extent of the impact Leon had on the movement?” Lefebvre stated with a shy smile. “But it was extraordinary.”

“Leon Monet. Brother of the artist and collector” runs on the Musee du Luxembourg in Paris from March 15 till July 16.

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