Lance Esplund reviews in the Wall Street Journal the Monet show at Gagosian put together by Paul Hayes Tucker and finds the moment when Monet “invented” mid-century art:
But something extraordinary happened around 1907, a sea change evident in a startling vertical “Nymphéas” painting in the first gallery. A blaze of yellows and reds, with the green and white lily pads seemingly hovering like spaceships above the pond, the painting suggests not a paradise but an inferno. Here Monet retains only vestigial references to the pond and instead, invoking J.M.W. Turner, or perhaps an El Greco Crucifixion, shoots us skyward, making the primary focus of the painting our ascent and the fiery colors of the sky that are reflected on the pond’s surface. Eliminating the horizon line and similar elements that landscape painters had traditionally used to orient the viewer, Monet suspends us in an inverted, inward and otherworldly space. With this painting, Monet moved Impressionism into new territory. He freed it from the realm of observed fact and into one—more spiritual, perhaps—of pure feeling. Additionally, he brought painting—forms, color and light—one step closer to abstract flight. […]
When Monet’s water lilies finally became well known at midcentury, artists and critics were astounded at how contemporary they appeared. They still do. At Gagosian, you will discover pictures that suggest the delicate, twinkling hand of 1950s Philip Guston, the color vibration of Mark Rothko and the linear tangles of Joan Mitchell and Jackson Pollock. At the same time, they have deep roots in the art of the past. You will see moments of Titian’s dazzling spatial web, Claude Lorrain’s wispy trees, the clouds of Tiepolo as well as flashes of Byzantine mosaics in Monet’s tessellated surfaces and quivering contours.
A Master Redraws the Rules of the Game (Wall Street Journal)