Monet's biggest liability is how pretty and pleasing his landscapes can be. It takes a bit of work—but just a bit—to grasp the substance beneath. The Cincinnati Art Museum has done that work for a new show called Monet in Giverny: Landscapes of Reflection, consisting of a dozen late paintings brought in from various American collections. (We've gathered three quarters of that total in this slide show.) You might imagine such an exhibition to be yet another pointless crowd-pleaser meant to generate gate—and I guess that's at least part of what it is. But the little catalog for the show is written with such care and sophistication that it counteracts such misgivings. Curator Benedict Leca and several other scholars reflect on Monet's reflections, and insist that both senses of "reflection" be considered when we take in these works. There's even a chapter on Monet and war—not the usual light-and-lively fare.
This 1907 image is from Monet's Water Lily series and belongs to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. As a friend of mine has pointed out, there's a touch of the Rorschach blot in all of Monet's watery reflections.