Claude Monet: The Truth of Nature at Denver Art Museum

Claude Monet steadily rises to the top of most beloved artists. A glimpse of one or two of his paintings spread across the globe easily confirm why. His love of color, perspective and especially the outdoors are inviting.

But when his work is assembled in larger numbers and placed into context, the results are invariably outstanding.

Such is the case at the Denver Art Museum.

Claude Monet, Path in the Wheat Fields at Pourville, 1882. Oil on canvas; 23 x 30-1/2 in (58.4 x 77.5 cm). Denver Art Museum: Frederic C. Hamilton Collection, 2016.365.

“The Truth of Nature” is the name of the exhibit, which is the most comprehensive U.S. exhibition of Monet paintings in more than two decades. Over 120 paintings from across his career have been impressively assembled by Angelica Daneo, the DAM’s Chief Curator and curator of European art before 1900, Christoph Heinrich, Frederick and Jan Mayer Director of the DAM, and Museum Barberini Director Ortrud Westheider.

Monet rose to prominence in tandem with two important technological breakthroughs: the rise in train travel and the availability of paints in tubes. Both developments drove artists like him out of the studio, away from generally dark still life and portraiture, and into nature. Outside, colors and light could be studied.

Monet famously did so.

He spent countless hours studying and painting the same scene, observing the subtle shifts in light, color and shadow. His resulting paintings of London’s Waterloo Bridge, and countryside scenes of haystacks and poplars are treasures.

Monet eventually decamped to Giverny, a bucolic town outside of Paris. There he created a garden which he could study endlessly. His transcendent paintings of waterlilies have beguiled observers for decades.

The Denver Art Museum’s assembly of these paintings is an incredibly thoughtful presentation. The bold wall colors serve to heighten the paintings’ placement. The chronological assembly takes the viewer from Paris to Monet’s stops north to the rugged Normandy coast, south to the bright Mediterranean, across the Channel to murky London, with stops in Holland and Scandinavia. His peripatetic nature exceeded that of his contemporaries, and his resulting work was more varied, daring and accomplished.

Monet certainly influenced David Hockney, who also over the course of his career has become fascinated by light and color.

The works assembled in Denver include selections from the Musée d’Orsay, Paris; Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; The Art Institute of Chicago; and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. A wonderful catalog accompanies the exhibition (published by Prestel Publishing), providing hours of enjoyment with thoughtful scholarly essays and full color plates.

This is a mandatory exhibit for anyone even remotely interested in one of the towering figures of art, and Denver is the only place in the U.S. to see it. Make plans now.

More information here.


Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.