To celebrate the exhibition devoted to Claude Monet at the Fondation Beyeler, we dug into our photoarchive and found this previously unpublished image, showing the water lilies radiant in the skylight galleries of Kunsthalle Basel in 1949. Basel can be very proud of the history of its oldest and most pioneering contemporary art institution: When few understood the importance of Monet’s Nymphéas (Water Lilies), Kunsthalle Basel showcased it, and was the first place in the world that one could see the masterpiece outside of Paris.
Monet was no stranger to the institution, the French artist was featured in group exhibitions in 1912 and 1915, during his lifetime. After his death, his Nymphéas, now considered one of art history’s most famous paintings, attracted little attention in the back rooms of the Orangerie in Paris. Kunsthalle Basel showcased the large-scale painting in the 1949 exhibition Impressionisten, where they were “the sensation” of the whole show, as Georg Schmidt, then director of the Kunstmuseum Basel, wrote. (And if you had been an astute collector at the time, you could have snatched up some water lilies for 25,000 Franken.) Kunsthalle Basel’s exhibition was vital to the posthumous reevaluation of the artist’s oeuvre and lead to presentations in Zurich, Paris, London, New York, Saint Louis, and Minneapolis dedicated to the late work of Monet. Today we continue our tradition of introducing audiences to artists before they are widely known or famous—nourishing, presenting, and promoting the art of tomorrow.
Image: Installation view Impressionisten, Kunsthalle Basel, 1949. From the photo archive of Kunsthalle Basel. Photo: Atelier Eidenbenz