Dazzling colour at the Fondation Louis Vuitton

Exhibitions | A day in Paris

If there is one exhibition not to be missed this season, it is the one at the Fondation Louis Vuitton which draws a parallel between American artist Joan Mitchell's work and Monet's last works.

Although from different generations – Joan Mitchell was born in 1925, just one year before Claude Monet died and two years before the famous Water Lilies were put on show at the Orangerie – the father of impressionism did however play a vital role in Mitchell’s pictural style. In the beginning much like all the other modern American painters who discovered Monet’s work after the war and made him one of the main references of abstract expression, but later in a far more personal way, when she definitively moved to France at the end of the 1950s and took up residence in Vétheuil, where Monet himself had lived before moving onto neighbouring Giverny. The connection between the artists is not based on this however, it comes from Mitchell’s description of her own quest, like Monet’s.

Both sought a means of transcribing a visual sensation of nature (for Monet) and an emotion felt when beholding nature (for Mitchell). Their work was therefore not about reproducing classic landscapes, but rather a combination of contemplation and memory, visual and emotional impressions illustrated by freedom of spatial limitations and a very free style for one and a lyrical abstraction with obvious physical and gestural dimensions for the other.

Each hall shows paintings by both artists where subtle similarities in rhythm and colour schemes create vibrant resemblances. The last halls of the three-floor exhibition are the most stunning as they unite the artists’ large scale, immersive works: Agapanthus by Monet (1915-26), a monumental triptych, fully presented for the first time in Paris, and ten paintings from Mitchell’s La Grande Vallée cycle. Intense colour is found in Mitchell’s work, with an explosion of blue and violet plus an overflowing energy of fire yellow and orange, whereas in Monet’s work, the gentle shades of blue and violet are dominant and enhanced with richly nuanced pinks, reds, and yellowy greens in the lower section. The power of the very different yet complementary works is quite bewitching! There is also a retrospective of Mitchell’s career on the lower floor to understand her work better and confirming her position as a major 20th century artist, which visitors can see before or after the main exhibition.

We would also like to suggest another, very different type of show – one of the best operas ever put on by the Opéra Garnier. The Marriage of Figaro, which marked the beginning of Mozart’s famous collaboration with librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte, is being staged in a highly inventive fashion by Netia Jones, the British director and designer (in charge of décor and costumes too). She created an opera house’s dressing rooms on stage, “an opera within an opera”, giving the audience the impression of watching from backstage, while blurring the lines between present day and the days of Mozart. Inspired by one of Beaumarchais’ plays, which was banned in Vienne at the time, The Marriage of Figaro is full of action, humour and brio with the exceptional baryon Luca Pisaroni interpreting Figaro. A colourful and absolutely spellbinding evening in store!

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