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Exhibition highlights the innovative way in which Claude Monet explored the motif of the bridge
Claude Monet, The Bridge at Argenteuil, 1874, oil on canvas, 89.8 × 81.4 cm. Neue Pinakothek, Munich. 1912 Tschudi Contribution. Photo © Neue Pinakothek / Art Resource, NY.

OTTAWA.- The National Gallery of Canada presents in a world exclusive Monet: A Bridge to Modernity, a dossier exhibition highlighting the innovative way in which Claude Monet (1840−1926) explored the motif of the bridge. On view until February 15, 2016, Monet: A Bridge to Modernity is the first monographic exhibition in Canada devoted to the artist in almost two decades.

This focus exhibition brings together twelve seminal paintings from prestigious public and private collections around the world. Monet painted these works in Argenteuil, a bustling suburb of Paris where he settled in late 1871 after his self-imposed exile in London and Holland during the Franco-Prussian war (1870–1871).

Monet’s early masterpiece Le pont de bois, the centrepiece of the exhibition, depicts the Argenteuil highway bridge under repair following the destruction wrought by the war⎯a tribute to France’s return to order. Monet’s friend, the painter Édouard Manet, was among the first to recognize the significance of the painting when he acquired it for his own collection.

The daring composition of Le pont de bois, in which Monet demonstrates a conscious interest in “picture-making,” became the point of departure for similar explorations of the bridge theme, each with a different viewpoint, technique, colour and brushwork. What resulted was paintings of startling modernity that cemented Monet’s status as one of the leaders of the 19th-century French avant-garde.

Monet: A Bridge to Modernity casts new light on Le pont de bois as it delves into the historic, sociological and artistic context of the early years of Impressionism in the early 1870s. The twelve paintings on view are accompanied by a collection of nineteenth-century photographs, illustrations, guide books, Japanese prints and postcards.

Le pont de bois shows the reconstruction of the Argenteuil highway bridge destroyed during the Franco-Prussian war that crosses the Seine near Monet’s home and that fascinated the artist. Here he offers us a glimpse of modern life: the bridge bustles with the traffic of workers returning home on foot and by carriage, while in the distance a plume of smoke rises from a steamboat chugging along the river.

This dossier exhibition was organized by Anabelle Kienle Poňka, Associate Curator of European and American Art.

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