Monet’s London Paintings to Reunite After 120 Years

Realizing the artist’s unfulfilled vision, The Courtauld Gallery will host the first UK exhibition of Claude Monet’s London cityscapes.

Jun 26, 2024By Emily Snow, MA History of Art, BA Art History & Curatorial Studies
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Houses of Parliament (detail) by Claude Monet, 1904. Source: The Courtauld Gallery.

 

Brought together for the first time since 1904, Claude Monet’s paintings of the River Thames are the focus of an upcoming exhibition at The Courtauld Gallery in London. 120 years ago, Monet first exhibited the Thames series in Paris, after which he hoped to stage a similar exhibition back in London. However, this vision was never realized during the artist’s lifetime. Now, Monet and London. Views of the Thames reunites twenty-one Thames paintings for the first Monet showcase of its kind in the United Kingdom. The exhibition runs from September 27 to January 19, 2025.

 

Monet’s “Extraordinary” Thames Views

Waterloo Bridge, Gray Weather by Claude Monet, 1900. Source: The Courtauld Gallery.

 

The French artist Claude Monet made three productive visits to London between 1899 and 1901. He spent a total of six months painting in the English capital during this period. According to The Courtauld Gallery, “Some of Monet’s most remarkable Impressionist paintings were made not in France but in London. They depict extraordinary views of the Thames as it had never been seen before.”

 

As a founding father of Impressionism, Monet was captivated by the unique atmospheric conditions London had to offer. Specifically, the dense fog that gathered along the Thames, partly a result of industrialization, produced surreal visual effects that he had not witnessed elsewhere. With a flurry of impasto brushstrokes, Monet transformed London’s most recognizable riverside landmarks —including the Houses of Parliament and Waterloo Bridge—into strikingly modern swaths of light and color. “What I like most in London is the fog,” Monet once told an art dealer. “It’s the fog that gives London its marvelous breadth. Regular blocks become grandiose in this mysterious cloak.”

 

Exhibition Realizes Monet’s Unfulfilled Vision

London, Parliament. Sunlight in the fog by Claude Monet, 1904. Source: The Courtauld Gallery.

 

After his time in London, Monet returned to his Giverny home studio to add finishing touches to his Thames paintings. He successfully debuted the completed series at an exhibition in Paris in 1904 and hoped to do the same in London the following year. However, Monet’s plan did not materialize, and the paintings were soon dispersed to different collectors around the world. Until now, Monet’s Thames series has never been the subject of a UK-based exhibition.

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Finally, after 120 years, Monet and London aims to faithfully recreate Monet’s intended vision for this particular body of work. According to The Courtauld Gallery, “By presenting the paintings Monet himself selected for his public in Paris and London, it will provide visitors with the unique experience of seeing the show Monet curated and the works he felt best represented his ambitious artistic enterprise.” Monet and London will feature twenty-one of these paintings, including eighteen from the original 1904 exhibition in Paris.

 

Impressionist Art at The Courtauld Gallery

Somerset House in London, photographed by Rory Lindsay. Source: The Courtauld Gallery.

 

Situated along the Thames in London’s historic Somerset House, The Courtauld Gallery boasts a world-renowned collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art—including Bar at the Folies-Bergère by Édouard Manet and Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear by Vincent van Gogh, as well as multiple Monets. The Courtauld Gallery also happens to be just 1,000 feet away from the Savoy Hotel, the balconies from which Claude Monet actually painted several of his London cityscapes.

 

The Griffin Catalyst Exhibition: Monet and London. Views of the Thames opens to the public on September 27 and it set to run through January 19, 2025.

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By Emily SnowMA History of Art, BA Art History & Curatorial StudiesEmily Snow is a contributing writer and art historian based in Amsterdam. She earned an MA in art history from the Courtauld Institute of Art and loves knitting, her calico cat, and everything Victorian.