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Group: Modern Life Modern Vision
Artist: Claude MONET
Title: Garden of the Princess
Date Made: 1867
Lender: Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College
Credit Line: R.T. Miller Jr. Fund, 1948
Garden of the Princess was painted from the colonnade of the Louvre in the spring of 1867, at the time of the opening of the Exposition universelle where Japanese art created widespread interest. Garden of the Princess presents random social groupings within a complex urban space, with interwoven trees and buildings. Monet’s distant Pantheon is sharply defined and the chimney pots in the middle distance are as sharp as the trunks of the regimented rosebushes in the garden below. Monet looked down steeply onto the lawn below the Louvre, representing it as an absolutely flat, unmodulated plane of green paint.
Monet’s selective focus on certain figures — such as the couple or the nursemaid in the garden, or the woman in a pink dress caught by a gleam of light under the trees — gives a sense of human presence within the distantly observed urban crowd. He may have developed this mode of representation from Hiroshige’s witty abbreviated signs for different types of figures — an appropriate vocabulary for the disjointed experience of metropolitan Paris. The Japanese artist, however, did not have Monet’s facility to use oil paint to suggest the crowd from which individual figures momentarily emerged. Monet would have seen contemporary photographs of Paris streets taken from high buildings, but these could not have given him the experience of the eye’s active participation in the myriad visual moments of the modern city. He was less interested in the view than in his own visual sensations, high above an animated crowd in central Paris. Japanese prints helped him to embody these sensations.
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