June 20, 2024
Art Gallery

National Gallery’s National Treasures Monet in York • Northern Life

York Art Gallery is one of twelve partners participating in National Treasures which will host a masterpiece from the National Gallery’s outstanding collection to celebrate this occasion.

Painted by one of the founders of the Impressionist movement Claude Monet (1840-1926), ‘The Water-Lily Pond’ (1899) will be the centrepiece of an exhibition which will bring together key loans from regional and national institutions alongside collection works, and a large-scale commission by contemporary artist Michaela Yearwood-Dan. Monet’s canvas will be explored in the context of 19th-century French open-air painting, pictures by his early mentors, and the Japanese prints which transformed his practice and beloved gardens in Giverny. By displaying canvases by those contemporaries he inspired, as well as more modern artworks and a new commission, the exhibition will reveal how Monet’s radical approach to painting had, and continues to have, an enduring influence on artists.

In 1893 Monet bought a plot of land next to his house in Giverny. He had already planted a colourful flower garden, but now he wanted to create a water garden “both for the pleasure of the eye and for the purpose of having subjects to paint”. He enlarged the existing pond, filling it with exotic new hybrid water lilies, and built a bridge at one end, inspired by examples seen in Japanese prints. The water garden became the main obsession of Monet’s later career. The National Gallery’s 1899 ‘The Water-Lily Pond’ painting was amongst his earlier canvases on this theme.

Dr Beatrice Bertram, Senior Curator at York Art Gallery, said “We are delighted to be hosting this beautiful and much-loved painting by Monet as part of the National Gallery’s Bicentenary events. Taking our cue from the artist’s lush canvas, our exhibition will explore open-air painting, celebrate the enjoyment of nature, landscapes and gardens, and connect indoor and outdoor spaces. In the Gallery, Monet will be joined by works from our own collection, key loans from national and regional museums, and a vibrant new commission by contemporary artist Michaela Yearwood-Dan. In the gardens nearby, Monet has inspired us to plant a wildflower meadow, and we’ll be encouraging audiences to get creative and engage in open-air sketching. We can’t wait to welcome visitors to York to see the painting and exhibition for themselves.”

National Treasures is a key strand of the National Gallery’s programme celebrating the Gallery’s Bicentenary. Each partner venue will receive a masterpiece from the Gallery’s collection and will curate around it, involving interpretation, community engagement and events, or exhibitions. For the duration of the displays, 35 million people – more than half the UK population – will be within an hour’s journey of a National Gallery masterpiece.

The opening of National Treasures around the UK kickstarts a year of Bicentenary celebrations, where three strands of activities showcase the Gallery across the nation; to the community in Trafalgar Square; and to virtual visitors around the world. The ambitious programme showcases the breadth of skill and creativity in the UK cultural sector, and is just as much about looking ahead to the next 200 years in the Gallery’s future as it is about celebrating its past. Concluding the celebrations in May 2025 will be the opening of the new Sainsbury Wing developments in Trafalgar Square.

Alexandra Kavanagh, Head of National Touring Exhibitions at the National Gallery, said, “As the National Gallery marks its third century of bringing people and paintings together, we are thrilled to be sharing twelve of our greatest masterpieces with museums across the UK. We’re delighted to be working with such a dynamic partner with a brilliant collection of their own in York Art Gallery. The new contexts in which visitors will get to see ‘The Water-Lily Pond’, thanks to contemporary response and the context of a museum garden, is exactly what we hoped National Treasures would help to spark as a programme.”

The exhibition at York Art Gallery is supported by wealth management company JM Finn and Little Greene Paint Company as the official paint partner.  Lucy Coutts, Head of JM Finn’s York office commented, “This National Treasures initiative is incredibly exciting and very much chimes with us; where the National Gallery are looking to make these paintings accessible, so we aim to make wealth management more accessible to help individuals meet their financial challenges.  We are delighted to be a part of this wonderful exhibition which also gives us a unique opportunity to cement our presence in York.”

NorthernLife June/July/Aug 24

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