Exhibit Challenges French Impressions Of Monet Claude Monet may be the father of French impressionist painting -- but curators of a new Monet exhibit in Paris say he's been overlooked in, of all places, France. A show at the Grand Palais museum -- showcasing nearly 200 Monet works on loan from around the world -- is designed to change that.
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Exhibit Challenges French Impressions Of Monet

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Exhibit Challenges French Impressions Of Monet

Exhibit Challenges French Impressions Of Monet

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RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

Eleanor Beardsley sends this report.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY: The Monet exhibit at the Grand Palais has been open for three weeks and the crowds have never let up. A double line snakes through a garden outside the museum, where patient art lovers such as Philadelphians Gary and Tracy Bartlett, say they're ready to wait for hours.

TRACY BARTLETT: I love Monet.

GARY BARTLETT: I love art.

BARTLETT: That's why we like Paris.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BARTLETT: We're in Paris and it's the biggest show in 30 years, so we're here.

BEARDSLEY: Richard Thomson, professor of fine arts at the University of Edinburgh and one of the exhibit curators, says there is a longstanding tradition of Americans responding to Impressionist painting.

RICHARD THOMSON: That's very much borne out in American museums. The major East Coast American museums, like New York, Washington, Philadelphia, Boston and indeed Chicago have got really deep collections of Monet, based on the purchases of the late 19th and the early 20th centuries.

BEARDSLEY: Guy Cogeval, the exhibit's head curator, says even in the 20th century, Monet has been met with what he calls a Gallic snobbishness.

GUY COGEVAL: Monet was a bit considered, I don't know, old fashioned? And everything had been said. And it was made for tourists, I would say, that was the main idea of the French. Monet was for Japanese, were for Americans, but not for the French.

BEARDSLEY: Perhaps the French ennui over Monet is understandable. His most popular works are so well known they're almost invisible. In a sense, his paintings are a ubiquitous kind of wallpaper, decorating calendars, dentists' offices, and dorm rooms the world over. But Monet's paintings can still thrill and surprise, says curator Richard Thomson.

THOMSON: The thing that's really outstanding about Monet's work is that not only did he paint for 60 years - he painted with an incredibly high level of quality, and above all, a willingness to challenge himself and therefore produce work of real variety and invention throughout those six decades.

BEARDSLEY: Frenchman Marc Quatreccioci insists France never fell out of love with Monet.

MARC QUATRECCIOCI: (Through Translator) Back in the day, perhaps people didn't understand Monet and Impressionism. But it is clearly part of our cultural heritage. The impressionists are to France, what the Renaissance is to Italy.

BEARDSLEY: Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris.

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