Abstract Expressionism, the movement that cemented New York’s status as the new center of the art world after World War II, is coming home—to Paris. The quintessentially American art movement’s debt to Europe is the subject of a new exhibition at the city’s Musée de l’Orangerie.
“The Water Lilies: American Abstract Painting and the last Monet,” juxtaposes 10 of the French artist’s beloved paintings with 20 major works by American artists including Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and Barnett Newman. The show will open with a large-scale work by Ellsworth Kelly, who was particularly vocal about Monet’s influence.
The show’s curator Cécile Debray, the chief curator and director of the Musée de l’Orangerie, notes that many American art critics saw Monet as a bridge between Impressionism and the New York School. After Clement Greenberg saw Monet’s water lilies on a visit to Paris in 1954, he opined that both Newman and Clyfford Still were following in the footsteps of the elder French artist.
Although it took time for Monet to gain traction in the US, the Museum of Modern Art’s director Alfred Barr belatedly gave his blessing to acquire the museum’s first water lily paintings in 1955—not coincidentally, around the same time that Abstract Expressionism was at the peak of its influence in New York. A stampede of demand followed. Midwestern museums including the Nelson-Atkins in Cleveland and the Minneapolis Institute of Art rushed to buy Monet’s late works the following year.
The show is supported by the American Friends of the Musée d’Orsay and the Musée de l’Orangerie and the Terra Art Foundation.
“Waterlilies: American Abstract Painting and the Last Monet,” runs from April 13 through August 20 at the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris.