A peek at the DAM's Passport to Paris: Part two

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There are three exhibits that make up the Denver Art Museum's newest show, Passport to Paris. In the last blog, I covered Court to Café and Drawing Room. Here is a look at the final element in the trio, Nature as Muse.

Nature is interesting before you even enter. The artwork hails from the DAM's own holdings, as well as the private collection of Frederic C. Hamilton, the namesake of the jagged, modern behemoth of a building that arches over 14th Avenue Parkway. According to curator Christoph Heinrich, who is also the Frederick and Jan Mayer Director, these works have never been presented like this before. At most, the pieces have been shown individually on loan, but never more than that.
A Monet nameplate on a frame. - EDIE ADELSTEIN
  • Edie Adelstein
  • A Monet nameplate on a frame.

Hamilton's collection is breathtaking, as expected, which makes it hard to believe that these Impressionist works were so poo-poo-ed by the establishment in their early days. What's more, the entire subject of landscape was the "bottom drawer" of fine art subjects, Heinrich says.

But bottom drawer or no, a group of artists started packing up their canvases, palettes and paint tubes, and went outdoors to capture the world in front of them. No facelifts, no exacting representations, no preoccupations with myths, religion or royalty. Merely daily life as it was at the time, Heinrich says. This was a snapshot of what Paris and the surrounding countryside looked like; timelessness wasn't their aim.

It begins with the Impressionist "trailblazers" and namely, Pissarro, who was the first to truly experiment with capturing the nature of the moment. With Monet and Courbet, he helped promote the idea within his group of artist friends and peers, which included Renoir, Sisley, Manet, Morisot and Caillebotte.

Each set out to paint what called to him (or, for Morisot, her). Caillebotte captured a luscious green expanse that was actually the leach field for the city of Paris (hence the happy grasses). Monet was enthralled with the morning smoke and smog of an awakening London. Pissarro dabbled in a little bit of everything, even playing around with pointillism until he could no longer handle how long it took to paint anything. And Morisot painted from the confines of her own garden, as it was considered inappropriate for a woman of the time to paint en plein air publicly. (For this same reason she mainly painted her family, instead of hiring models.)

A painting by Renoir of Monet. - DENVER ART MUSEUM
  • Denver Art Museum
  • A painting by Renoir of Monet.

Nature ends with a room solely of Monet paintings on eggplant-colored walls. Like Becoming Van Gogh before it, it's the grand finale. That's all I'll say, but here's a hint:

A detail of Monet's "Water Lilies," one of series of about 250 works depicting the pond in his Giverny garden. - EDIE ADELSTEIN
  • Edie Adelstein
  • A detail of Monet's "Water Lilies," one of series of about 250 works depicting the pond in his Giverny garden.

Passport opens Sunday and runs through Feb. 9 next year.

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