Monet, modern classics headline art shows at German museum

POTSDAM, Germany — Some of Claude Monet's famous water lily paintings are among the impressionist and modern art works that went on show Thursday at a faithfully reconstructed 18th century town house in Potsdam, just outside Berlin.

The Barberini Museum is the brainchild of Hasso Plattner, a co-founder of software company SAP.

Plattner initiated the rebuilding of the Palais Barberini, a baroque building that once was a venue for concerts and films but was destroyed in a bombing raid at the end of World War II.

The museum will house Plattner's art collection, and his ambition is for it to "become the cultural center of Potsdam again."

The two inaugural shows include more than 40 paintings by Monet, expressionist works by Edvard Munch and Emil Nolde and paintings by Max Beckmann. Some of the artwork belongs to Plattner, others were loans from museums and private collections from around the world.

The exhibition, "Impressionism: The Art of Landscape," also features Monet's famous hay and grain stack paintings in various shades and colors — exploring variations of light at the times and seasons when he painted the scenes.

The show's overall focus is on nature and light. The 92 impressionist works are displayed in thematic order presenting wintery impressions, southern European scenes, gardens and water — lakes, rivers and the ocean.

Monet's "Low Tide at Les Petites-Dalles" oil on canvas from 1884 shows smooth waves and patches of green algae on a beach in front of a monumental cliff. The contrasting colors of the ocean and the rocks serve Monet as a study of light reflections on the water's surface.

"The moment itself is at the center of these impressionist works, but the art is also very strongly oriented toward scientific findings," museum director Ortrud Westheider said, adding that the precise observation of nature as well as the development of natural sciences and industry in the 19th century influenced the artists. The new developments as well as the notion that artists would take their easel and paintbrushes outdoors were considered quite revolutionary at the time.

Besides Monet, the show also includes works from Camille Pissarro, Alfred Sisley and Pierre-August Renoir among others.

The second exhibition, "Modern Art Classics: Liebermann, Munch, Nolde, Kandinsky," examines some 60 paintings and sculptures from a period of over 100 years, again with a focus on nature depictions. There are several paintings by Berlin artist Max Beckmann of his garden at Wannsee lake, studies of flamingly red Iris flowers by Nolde and several works by Norwegian expressionist Munch, including "Summer night by the Beach" from 1903, which shows a solemn full moon above the ocean, its light reflecting on the water in a long path all the way to the beach.

The museum will open its doors to the public on Monday. Both inaugural exhibitions will be on show through May 28.

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