The University Record, December 10, 1997

Monet series brought together for first time at U-M

By Joanne Nesbit
News and Information Services

Carole McNamara (left) and Annette Dixon display 'La Debacle,' the Monet painting that belongs to the Museum of Art's permanent collection. It will join 11 other paintings from Monet's winter at Vetheuil, when he produced a series of works documenting th e January 1880 floods along the Seine. The special Monet exhibition, co-curated by Dixon and McNamara, opens Jan. 25. Photo by Bob Kalmbach

It was cold that winter; so cold that the River Seine froze solid. His wife had died. Creditors were threatening. The critics did not favor his work. Depression gripped painter Claude Monet.

Then, in early January 1880, temperatures climbed and partial thawing and snowmelt from the surrounding hills brought flooding and devastation along the Seine. The whole scene brought new inspiration to Monet, who produced a series of works documenting the event, including his "La Debacle," now in the University's permanent collection. This and 11 other paintings from Monet's winter at Vetheuil have been brought together for the first time in an exhibition opening Jan. 25 at the Museum of Art. Upon closing in Ann Arbor March 15, the exhibition will travel to Dallas and Minneapolis.

"Monet at Vetheuil: The Turning Point" brings together Monet works from Switzerland, New Zealand, Spain, France, Canada and Texas. The collection, all oil on canvas and not seen together since they left the artist's Vetheuil studio, includes "Camille Monet sur son lit de mort" (Camille Monet on her death bed).

Just locating the works in the series was a monumental task undertaken by curators Carole McNamara, interim director and collections manager at the Museum, and Annette Dixon, curator of Western art. The duo began by consulting a 1974 catalog, which led them off course a couple of times. Some of the paintings the curators were looking for were in private collections, others in museums, some had been sold or moved from where the catalog indicated they could be found. A friend of U-M's Museum just happened to see one of the series in Dunedin, New Zealand, recognized it as similar to the Monet holding in Ann Arbor and notified the Museum.

Once a work is located and the arrangements are made for borrowing it, a person from the lending institution accompanies the art to its destination.

"That's not really cost effective," says Dixon, "especially for the piece from New Zealand, but it is a stupendous painting, recently cleaned and restored." The organizing institution pays the travel and transportation expenses. "That," says Dixon, "is an enormously expensive undertaking."

The Museum of Art is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday­Sunday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Thursday and noon-5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free. Tickets for the Monet exhibition are $6 for the public; $3 for U-M staff, faculty and all senior citizens. It is free to Museum of Art Friends, U-M students and children under 12. Tickets are available through TicketsPlus, (800) 585-3737.