The “Monet – Mitchell” exhibition is the major event of autumn 2022 at the Fondation Louis Vuitton.
The exhibition “Monet – Mitchell” creates, for the first time, a visual, artistic, sensorial, and poetic “dialogue” between the works of two exceptional artists, Claude Monet (1840-1926), with his Water Lilies, and Joan Mitchell (1925-1992). Both artists left their mark not only on their epoch but also on subsequent generations of painters.
The “Monet-Mitchell” exhibition will be complemented by a retrospective of Joan Mitchell’s work, enabling the public in France and Europe to discover her work.
“Monet – Mitchell” and the “Joan Mitchell Retrospective” present each artist’s unique response to a shared landscape, which they interpret in a particularly immersive and sensual manner.
In his last paintings, the Water Lilies, Monet aimed to recreate in his studio the motifs he observed at length on the surface of his water lily pond in Giverny. Joan Mitchell, on the other hand, would explore a memory or a sense of the emotions she felt while in a particular place that was dear to her, perceptions that remained vivid beyond space and time. She would create these abstract compositions at La Tour, her studio in Vétheuil, a small French village where she moved permanently in 1968 and where Claude Monet had lived between 1878 and 1881.
Monet – Mitchell
This autumn (2022), the Fondation Louis Vuitton has the pleasure of partnering with the Musée Marmottan Monet (France), which boasts the world’s largest collection of works by Claude Monet, to present “Monet-Mitchell”, an exhibition devoted to the dialogue between Claude Monet’s later works (1914–1926), the Water Lilies, and the work of the American artist Joan Mitchell.
Unique in its scope and poetic force, the “Monet-Mitchell” exhibition will run from October 5, 2022, to February 27, 2023. It will span eight galleries, from the ground floor to the upper levels. The Joan Mitchell retrospective, which will be on display on the lower level of the Frank Gehry building, will run simultaneously and will allow for a discovery of her work.
Claude Monet’s Water Lilies found recognition in the United States in the 1950s, where they were seen as precursors of abstraction by the painters of Abstract Expressionism. Following André Masson, Clement Greenberg, the famous American critic, took a stand in defence of their modernity: “What [Monet] found in the end was, however, not so much a new as a more comprehensive principle; and: it lay not in Nature, as he thought, but in the essence of art itself, in art’s ‘abstractness’”. In the context of “Monet’s Revival”, in 1957 and 1958, Mitchell took part in exhibitions devoted to the notion of “abstract impressionism,” a term coined by her friend Elaine de Kooning. The rapprochement between the two artists was further reinforced by Joan Mitchell’s move in 1968 to Vétheuil to a house close to where Monet lived between 1878-1881. Joan Mitchell nonetheless asserted full artistic independence.
Faced with the same landscape, namely the banks of the Seine, Monet and Mitchell developed a pictorial approach that they defined in similar terms, with Monet referring to “sensation” and Mitchell to “feelings”. Inspired by the natural surroundings of the Paris Region, both artists shared an acute sensitivity to light and colour, the interplay of which forms the basis of their art. Through her use of hedonistic colour and vibrant light, Mitchell shared evocations of feelings and memories; Monet’s late work was marked by the abandoning of formal contours in favour of colour, which he defined by capturing fleeting light. Monet and Mitchell’s gestural and energetic canvases, which evoke foliage, water, and the atmosphere, reflect their mutual affinity with the landscape.
Through some 60 emblematic works by both artists, the exhibition offers the public an enchanting and immersive journey, emphasised by striking visual and thematic parallels. Some 36 works by Claude Monet, including 25 major canvases belonging to the Musée Marmottan Monet, offer an overview of the Water Lilies, characterised by large-scale works (200x200m). These paintings, which are rarely presented without a frame, are in dialogue with 24 of Joan Mitchell’s paintings.
Significantly, the exhibition brings together two exceptional bodies of work:
Claude Monet’s Agapanthus Triptych (ca. 1915-1926), a nearly 13-metre long “Grand Decoration”. Held in three American museums (the Cleveland Museum, the Saint Louis Art Museum, and the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City), it will be exhibited in its entirety for the first time in Paris. This triptych, on which Monet worked for nearly 10 years and which he considered to be “one of his four best series,” played a decisive role in the artist’s’ subsequent recognition in the United States.
Joan Mitchell’s La Grande Vallée: a selection of ten paintings from the Grand Vallée series (1983-84) is being exceptionally brought together, almost four decades after its fragmentary exhibition at the Galerie Jean Fournier in 1984. Regarded as one of her most important series, it is characterised by an abundance of colour that spreads across the canvas, creating a sense of vibrancy and elation. The Centre Pompidou’s triptych, La Grande Vallée XIV (For a Little While), which has a different feel to it, provokes a feeling of infinity in which the viewer’s gaze is lost.
General Curator of the exhibition: Suzanne Pagé, Artistic Director of the Fondation Louis Vuitton.
Curators of the exhibition: Marianne Mathieu, Head Curator of the Musée Marmottan Monet and Angeline Scherf, Curator at the Fondation Louis Vuitton.
Joan Mitchell Retrospective (1925-1992)
Alongside the “Monet-Mitchell” exhibition, the Fondation Louis Vuitton presents the most significant Joan Mitchell retrospective to be shown in Europe in almost 30 years. This exhibition, which is co-organized with the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) and the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA)* and presented in Paris by the Fondation Louis Vuitton, aims to raise public awareness of Joan Michell’s work.
Presented across two galleries on the ground floor, the exhibition brings together some 50 works over an area of 1,000 m2. It offers a new version of the exhibition recently presented in the United States. The exhibition benefits from generous loans, for example from the Centre Pompidou and the Musée du Monastère Royal de Brou. It also includes a dozen works from the Collection of the Fondation Louis Vuitton.
While Joan Mitchell took part in the abstract expressionist movement in the United States during the first half of the 1950s, this exhibition aims to highlight the singularity of her work, which is characterised by the intensity of her palette, her constantly reconsidered search for colour and light, and her intimate bond with landscapes. “I carry my landscape around with me,” she often declared. Inspired by her memories, the feelings of them, and by the work of great modern masters (Van Gogh, Cézanne, Matisse, and Monet, among others), Mitchell also found inspiration and equivalences in music and poetry, as emphasised by the numerous documents presented in the exhibition.
The retrospective examines the life and work of an artist who is today regarded as one of the most influential artistic figures of the second half of the twentieth century. Suzanne Pagé, general curator of the exhibition – who presented the first ever exhibition of Joan Mitchell’s works in a French museum (1982) – notes that her work is the “quintessence of abstraction in a manner that is entirely singular by its very paradox: ‘My painting is abstract,’ the artist said, ‘but it is also a landscape’.”
From the early 1950s, Joan Mitchell was a prominent figure in the New York art scene, and regularly interacted with artists such as Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning, and Philip Guston. Her lively, gestural work was shaped by her specific affinity with European artists from the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, as well as her interest in poetry.
The exhibition explores the major series she created in her native country as well as in Paris, where she moved to in 1959 before permanently settling in Vétheuil in 1968, a place more in tune with her work. Initially seen as a source of inspiration for her solar, incandescent paintings, Vétheuil soon became synonymous with her polyptychs of the 1970s, such as Chasse Interdite (1973), which belongs to the Centre Pompidou. The artist continued creating exuberant paintings in the 1980s, with works such as No Birds (1987–1988), which is a tribute to Van Gogh, or South (1989), her iconic version of Cézanne’s Sainte-Victoire, one of the masterpieces of the Collection of the Fondation.
General Curator: Suzanne Pagé, Artistic Director of the Fondation Louis Vuitton. Curators of the exhibition: Sarah Roberts, Andrew W. Mellon Curator and Head of Painting and Sculpture – San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Katy Siegel, Senior Programming and Research Curator – Baltimore Museum of Art Eugene and Clare E. Thaw Endowed Chair in American Art and Distinguished Professor – Stony Brook University, New York, Associate Curator for the Paris presentation: Olivier Michelon, Curator at the Fondation Louis Vuitton.