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Monet symposium

Image and context: reflections on Monet and Impressionism

Te Papa presented a one-day symposium in conjunction with the exhibition Monet and the Impressionists. Noted scholars gave illuminating talks on Claude Monet, his contemporaries, and their artistic practice.

Saturday 21 March 2009
8.15am–3pm. Soundings Theatre, Level 2

The symposium was chaired by Jonathan Mane-Wheoki, Director Art and Collection Services at Te Papa.

The following papers were presented:

Monet and the weather Dr Emilie Sitzia (University of Canterbury)
Observing and rendering the changing weather is at the heart of plein-air (outdoors) painters' practice, and is particularly significant in Monet's works. This talk explored the challenges and opportunities created by the weather.

Claude Monet and the painted garden c.1866–1875 Julie King (Art Historian)
Of all the Impressionists, it was Claude Monet who took the lead in establishing the garden as a theme in modern landscape painting. Abandoning the forest of Barbizon in favour of 'nature that man makes modern' (Zola, 1868), he found subjects in the Parisian park, and in the grass and flowerbeds of a suburban garden. This paper looks at ways in which Monet used these modern motifs to challenge traditional modes of painting, and to develop a new pictorial language.

Was there an Impressionist sculpture?  Mark Stocker, Associate Professor (University of Otago)
Claude Monet and Auguste Rodin exhibited together in 1889 and admired each other. To what extent can the effects that Rodin pursued in sculpture be likened to Impressionism in painting? Should they be described as Symbolist instead? Did Rodin and Monet appeal to the same audiences? Can any other sculptors of the period be regarded as Impressionist, or at least impressionistic? This presentation considered these and other related questions.

Figures in the landscape: Cézanne's The Pond Virginia Spate, Emeritus Professor (University of Sydney)
This paper examined Cézanne's strange little painting in the context of the Impressionists' paintings of picnics, lovers, and bathers in the countryside. The artificiality of this painting sits at odds with the Impressionist style, and the naturalism of landscape painting from direct observation out in the open.

Impressionist prints: experiment and innovation Victoria Robson, Curator European Art (Te Papa)
The new mechanical reproductive processes that grew out of industrialisation seemed at first to spell the death of the handmade print in France. However the 1850s saw a renewed interest in printmaking, particularly by Barbizon painters and the Impressionists. These artists explored a variety of media (etching, monotype, drypoint engraving, and aquatint), experimented with the phases of the printmaking process, and were fascinated with Japanese prints.

Monet and water Terence Maloon (Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney)
This talk examines Monet's lifelong obsession with water, and how it seems to have influenced in the most fundamental way his approach to painting and representation, inflecting the very idea of Impressionism.

Speakers' profiles

Terence Maloon

Terence Maloon is senior curator of special exhibitions for the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. His recent exhibitions for the Gallery include Camille Pissarro (2006), Picasso: the last decades (2002), Drawing the figure – Michelangelo to Matisse (co-curated with Peter Raissis, 1999), and Classic Cézanne (1998).

Prof Emeritus Virginia Spate

Formerly Power Professor and Chair of the Department of Art History at the University of Sydney, Virginia Spate is a world-renowned Monet scholar. Among her many books and articles on 19th and 20th century painting, she has published Claude Monet: the colour of time (1992), Orphism: the evolution of non-figurative painting in Paris, 1910–1914 (1979), and monographs on Tom Roberts (1972) and John Olsen (1963). She was the curator of the exhibition Monet & Japan at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra (2001). Her current research is on the subject of Cézanne.

Julie King

Julie King is an independent art historian, and former Senior Lecturer in Art History at the University of Canterbury. She came to New Zealand after completing postgraduate studies in 19th century French Art at the University of Manchester, and working for the Open University in England. She has researched and written on many aspects of New Zealand art, and curated national touring shows of works by Sydney Lough Thompson (1990), and Margaret Stoddart (1997–1998).

Emilie Sitzia

Dr Emilie Sitzia was educated in France, Germany, and Finland. She left Europe for Aotearoa New Zealand in 2004, when she joined the University of Canterbury, where she is lecturing on European art with an emphasis on 19th century French art. Her research includes a range of interdisciplinary topics linking literature and art in 19th century France.

Mark Stocker

Mark Stocker is an Associate Professor of Art History in the Department of History and Art History, University of Otago, Dunedin, where he has been since 2003.  He has published widely in the areas of 19th and early 20th century sculpture and numismatics (the study of coins and medals), and is a contributor to the forthcoming book Art at Te Papa, published in April 2009.

Victoria Robson

Victoria Robson is Curator of European art at Te Papa, and has a particular interest in European prints and 20th century British art.


  • 8.15am: Registration. Soundings Foyer, Level 2.
  • 8.30am–9.30am: Monet and the Impressionists exhibition open for early viewing. Visa Platinum Gallery, Level 4.
  • 9.30am: Tea and coffee. Icon, Level 2.
  • 10am–12 noon: Symposium. Soundings Theatre, Level 2.
  • 12 noon–1pm: Lunch. Oceania, Level 3.
  • 1pm–3pm: Symposium. Soundings Theatre, Level 2.
  • 3pm–6pm: Participants are invited to have another viewing of the exhibition after the symposium.


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