It is easy to imagine that art history is a fixed discipline, full of information rarely subject to change, particularly when it comes to some of the best-known artists in the Western canon. And yet “Monet: Framing Life” – a new special exhibit at the Detroit Institute of Arts – proves how devoted curatorial practice can reveal exciting new insights about works that have been part of the collection for decades.
“This exhibition centers on the sole Monet painting in our collection,” said Jill Shaw, the DIA”s associate curator of European art (1850-1950). “All of the works that we’ve brought in from elsewhere really serve to highlight our work.”
That one piece in question was purchased by the DIA in 1921 — before the end of Monet’s lifetime, which made it a contemporary art acquisition at the time. It first appeared on the public market in 1919, and at that time it was called “Gladioli.” The DIA kept that name for nearly a century. Then in the process of revisiting the work for this exhibition, research into inscriptions found on the back of the painting revealed new insight into the work’s origins.