Monet’s Thames Paintings Will Finally Go on View in London—Nearly 120 Years After the Original Exhibition Was Postponed

The artist hoped to display the works in the city where he painted them, but he was plagued with anxiety over their quality

Claude Monet, London, Parliament, Sunlight in the fog
London, Parliament, Sunlight in the fog, Claude Monet, 1904 Grand Palais RMN / Musée d’Orsay / Hervé Lewandowsk

Claude Monet had planned to display his paintings of the river Thames at a London exhibition in 1905. However, weeks before the show opened, the artist postponed it, believing the works weren’t up to snuff.

Nearly 120 years later, the long-awaited exhibition is finally coming together: London’s Courtauld Gallery has reunited many of the original pieces to execute Monet’s vision. The show, “Monet and London: Views of the Thames,” will open this fall.

Between 1899 and 1901, Monet created 94 pieces featuring the Thames over the course of three trips to London. These works showed the Charing Cross Bridge, the Waterloo Bridge and the Houses of Parliament at different times of day and in various weather conditions.

“Some of Monet’s most remarkable Impressionist paintings were made not in France but in London,” says the Courtauld Gallery in a statement. “They depict extraordinary views of the Thames as it had never been seen before, full of evocative atmosphere, mysterious light and radiant color.”

In 1904, Monet presented 37 of his Thames paintings at a show in Paris, where they were a big hit. Building on this success, the artist started organizing an exhibition at Dowdeswell’s, a London gallery on New Bond Street. “I have always wanted to show my Londons here, for my own satisfaction,” the artist wrote in a letter during a trip to England in 1904, per the Art Newspaper’s Martin Bailey.

Just months after the show’s announcement, Monet’s big plans started to unravel. The Manchester Courier reported that the artist had delayed the exhibition indefinitely, writing that “Monet is dissatisfied with the quality of the canvases which he intended to show, hence the postponement.”

Monet had a reputation for feeling unhappy with his final pieces—even when they received extensive praise.

“His paintings have a kind of therapeutic value because most of them are so beautiful and restful. However, he himself, as a perfectionist, found painting them anything but restful,” Ross King, author of Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies, told the Dallas Morning News’ David Walton in 2016. “He once threw his easel and paintbox into the river in a fit of temper.”

Monet, who would later slash 15 of his own canvases ahead of another Paris show, was well aware of his perfectionist tendencies.

“I’ve enough good sense in me to know whether what I’m doing is good or bad, and it’s utterly bad,” he wrote in a 1912 letter, per Richard Kendall’s Monet by Himself. In another letter to his art dealer a few weeks later, he insisted, “I know well enough in advance that you’ll find my paintings perfect. I know that if they are exhibited, they’ll be a great success, but I couldn’t be more indifferent to it since I know they are bad, I’m certain of it.”

Claude Monet, Houses of Parliament, Sunset,
Houses of Parliament, Sunset, Claude Monet, 1900-1903 Hasso Plattner Collection

Despite Monet’s reservations about his Thames pieces, the works have only grown more popular—some fetching astonishing sums at auction. In 2022, Le Parlement, soleil couchant (Houses of Parliament, Sunset) sold for a whopping $76 million at Christie’s.

This work will be on view in the upcoming show, which will include 19 of Monet’s 37 original Thames paintings displayed in Paris.

The Courtauld Gallery writes that the exhibition will “realize Monet’s unfulfilled ambition of showing this extraordinary group of paintings in London, on the banks of the Thames just 300 meters from the Savoy Hotel, where many of them were created.”

Fingers crossed that this time, there won’t be a last-minute cancellation.

Monet and London: Views of the Thames” will be on view at the Courtauld Gallery in London from September 27, 2024, to January 19, 2025.

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