Arts / Museums

The Secrets Inside Monet’s Gardens

Film at MFAH Shows the “Pretty” Art Icon Like You’ve Never Seen Him Before

BY // 08.10.18

Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse from the Royal Academy of Arts, London, promises to be quite a trip for those who view the exhibition-related film when it screens at 3 pm Friday and Saturday (August 10 and 11) at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

“This exhibition of psychedelic modernist pastoral art is a ravishing joy and takes Monet out of the chocolate box, revealing one of art’s great humanists,” The Guardian’s Jonathan Jones gushes in a review of the landmark 2016 exhibition.

“Let Monet rock your world,” Jones challenges readers, inviting them to take a new perspective of popular Impressionist artist Claude Monet (1840-1926), who, he says, is not “just a pretty painter,” through the show.

That may well come as a startling invitation for those who’ve formed a more subdued interpretation of Monet’s style, even after seeing one or two of the French artist’s myriad paintings of water lilies on his lush Giverny garden property (including one at MFAH).

As our friends across the pond might say: No common-or-garden show, this.

According to the Royal Academy, Monet’s work was used a starting point in the show to examine the role that gardens played in the evolution of art from the early 1860s to the 1920s, a time of great social change, with more than 120 masterpieces by artists including Henri Matisse, Pierre-August Renoir, Camille Pissarro and John Singer Sargent.

In the movie, the viewer is shepherded by well-informed curators, artists and gardeners through the blockbuster exhibition as well as the splendid gardens that inspired transformative artists like Monet.

Given Houston’s sweltering summer heat, this enlightening film presents a comfortable way to take a virtual guided tour through many sumptuous gardens while relaxing in the quiet coolness of the MFAH’s Brown Auditorium Theater.

Moreover, a special musical treat with a complementary theme is in store after the film presentation on Saturday. The Houston Chamber Choir will present a concert, “Impressionist Dreams.” The program explores colorful gardens and scenic beauty depicted by composers including Felix Mendelssohn.

The concert, which will take place in a gallery on the second floor of the Beck Building (where fine Impressionist art is abundant), is free with museum admission. I’m looking forward to both trips.

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