Show Me The Monet

Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts is getting ready to show you the Monet.

The venerable museum turned 150 recently, and one of its biggest birthday gifts is a forthcoming new exhibition offering visitors a chance to see all 35 of the museum’s priceless works by Claude Monet.

Founded on Feb. 4, 1870, the museum last displayed its complete collection of Monet oil paintings 25 years ago. Many of the paintings were brought to Boston during Monet’s lifetime, making “Monet and Boston: Lasting Impression” — which opens April 18 and runs through Aug. 23 — “a once-in-a-generation chance,” the museum said.

Grand Canal, Venice
The MFA’s Monet collection includes “Grand Canal, Venice” painted in 1908.

The Monet collection in Boston is one of the largest outside France of works by the Impressionist master.

It includes pieces from Monet’s beloved “Water Lilies” series, as well as early works from the mid-1860s and later experimental paintings such as “Afternoon Effect,” done in the sun-kissed French Riviera resort town of Antibes. There are also more recognizable works including “Grainstacks.”

Antibes (Afternoon Effect)
Claude Monet’s “Antibes (Afternoon Effect)” from 1888.

The MFA, home to more than 500,000 works of art from around the globe, welcomes more than 1 million visitors a year, and it has been taking its collection on the road with help from a nearly $2 million grant to help create traveling exhibitions.

What the collection also does is represent the city’s link to one of the cornerstones of Modernism. Monet was unfailing in his painterly vision; he didn’t create scenes so much as moments, infatuated with subtle shifts in light and weather, working in series (half a dozen or more deep) to capture tonal atmospheric shifts across steadfast mountain and field, bridge and abbey (the MFA has several pairs, but none so much as three).

Water Lilies
One of Claude Monet’s “Water Lilies” paintings.

Artists here were entranced by his vision. Lilla Cabot Perry visited Monet at Giverny and took photos of him at work. John Singer Sargent, a favorite artistic son, corresponded with him (Sargent wrote of Monet’s painting of the Creuse valley: “you’ve managed to capture unfathomable things”). Sargent even captured Monet at work on “Meadow With Haystacks near Giverny,” a painting that eventually landed in the MFA collection. (Sargent’s painting, however, is in London; his letter will be part of the MFA show.)

A quarter century after these paintings were last seen together, Boston gets to continue the story, in full, again.


April 18-Aug. 23, Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Ave. 617-267-9300,

Where to stay in Boston for this event: