The Vancouver Art Gallery has chosen, for its summer exhibition, a sure blockbuster. “Claude Monet’s Secret Garden” is a guaranteed hit for the gallery, which is certainly looking to secure funds for its new building. The exhibition, put together with the Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris, features 38 works spanning the artist’s career. The most important Canadian exhibit of the painter’s work in two decades, “Claude Monet’s Secret Garden” (on until Oct. 1, 2017) is a captivating and insular look at the art of Monet, going beyond the lily pads and into territory more compelling to a contemporary viewer.
Upon first entering the exhibition, viewers are greeted by En promenade près d’argenteuil (1875), which works essentially as a crash course in Impressionism. Here, Monet’s subject is the light, and painting en plein air meant that capturing it was time-sensitive—there are only so many hours of light in a day, after all. And Le train dans la neige (1875) emphasizes the importance of locomotive transport at the time, the new technology that brought the bourgeoisie from Paris to the country.
On view, of course, are famous paintings from Monet’s Giverny garden in France. Designed by the artist, the greenery served as his most loyal subject from 1883 until his death in 1926. Attractive and alluring, the pieces are certainly a sight to behold. And his last painting ever made, Les Roses (1925 to 1926), is a stunning study of a subject, the canvas around the edges showing through. Piece by piece, this exhibit itself paints an everlasting picture of Monet.