CONCORD, N.H. — A beloved Claude Monet painting is back at New Hampshire’s Currier Museum of Art after an eight-month tour, along with three others that show the artist’s evolution.
The exhibit “Monet: Pathways to Impressionism” opened Saturday and runs until Nov. 13 at the Manchester museum.
His 1869 landscape, “The Bridge at Bougival,” was acquired by the museum in 1949. It has recently been shown at major exhibitions in Houston, Fort Worth, and San Francisco.
Andrew Spahr, the museum’s director of collections and exhibitions, says no other work of art in the Currier’s collection is requested for loan more than the Monet; the painting of the bridge in autumn with patterns of sunlight and shade was on tour for most of last year, too.
Spahr said while much was known about Monet, the true importance of the Currier painting has only been revealed in the last several decades. He said the painting is among only a handful of Monet’s early works in which you can clearly see him developing a style of art that later would be coined “impressionism.”
“So scholars now recognize our picture as a turning point in Monet’s early career, in which he begins to form a new style that would transform not only his working method, but the whole of western art,” Spahr said.
Paul Hayes Tucker, an art historian in Santa Barbara, California, who taught at the University of Massachusetts Boston for over 30 years and specializes in Monet and Impressionism, calls it “one of the great pictures” and a real mark of Monet’s achievement at that moment.
The painting is both simple and complex, Tucker said. Monet wants to give the observer the sensation that it is instantaneous, yet it is a highly calculated image. “That’s one of Monet’s great gifts, into making believe that you are standing right there with him,” Tucker said, with the canvas showing “a kind of instantaneity that is going to make you think the foliage is fluttering, the light is about to shift, the water is shimmering, and the people are walking to and fro.”
The term “impressionism” itself came from the title Monet gave to a painting at Paris Salon of 1874: “Impression, Sunrise.” It was used by critics to attack the new style because it seemed hazy and entirely without form and structure.
The exhibition includes Monet paintings on loan from the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. They range from 1865 to 1900 and show how Monet exploring realism, impressionism and post-impressionism. Monet died in 1926 at age 86.
The Currier is holding Monet tours on July 16 and Aug. 26, and a children’s event on July 24.