An Impressionist Roller Coaster: Painting The Modern Garden Reviewed

Painting The Modern Garden: Monet To Matisse, The Royal Academy Of Arts ★★★☆☆

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 32 months ago
An Impressionist Roller Coaster: Painting The Modern Garden Reviewed Painting The Modern Garden: Monet To Matisse, The Royal Academy Of Arts 3
The famous water lilies by Monet. Photo (c) Portland Art Museum, Portland, Oregon

Everybody loves a pretty garden — such scenes are the bread and butter of the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist periods — and there's foliage and water lilies aplenty at the first blockbuster exhibition of the year from the Royal Academy of Arts.

Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse starts off promisingly with some solid works and the occasional flashes of brilliance from Monet and Renoir. Any doubts from the first few rooms are quickly dispelled by a stunning room full of Monet paintings of his garden at Giverny. The Japanese bridge and his waterlilies are, as ever, breathtaking.

The exhibition then takes a dip with a slew of so-so Impressionist works, some lesser Sargents and — we have no idea why — mediocre works by Spanish painter Sorolla.

The roller coaster doesn't end there: the exhibition ratchets up pace with some fabulous Post-Impressionist works by Kandinsky, Matisse, Klee and others, before finishing on a blissful high with the beautiful late works of Monet and four of his large waterlily works all together. The only place you could rival this encompassing effect would be the Musee de l'Orangerie in Paris.

Here is one of the most inconsistent exhibitions we've seen — moments of brilliance and mediocrity in equal measure. The best parts, however, justify the ticket price.

Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse is on at the Royal Academy of Arts from 30 January-20 April. Tickets are £16 for adults, concessions available.

Last Updated 28 January 2016

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