André Monet puts it all down to luck; his gallery’s director, down to talent and fortuitous timing. In other words, an artistic perfect storm.
While the dust settles after the international buzz over Prince William’s wedding with Kate Middleton, the Montreal artist and his gallery are still flying high. Commissioned by the Opera Gallery of London to do a painting of the Royal couple, Monet could not believe his luck. The double portrait was offered as a gift to the newlyweds, and overnight, Monet garnered the moniker of “royal portraitist.”
A heady time for the expatriate who settled in London on a wing and a prayer, and is now selling his paintings between $10,000 and $30,000 on the international market.
Monet, who previously worked in publicity and fashion, decided at 35, he wanted to be a painter by the age of 40, and in five years mounted a solo exhibition that sold out, and the rest, as they say, is history.
“I followed my dream to find my place in the world of painting,” Monet recalls, “and the doors opened very easily, without any obstacles to overcome.”
The first gallery to spot Monet’s talent was Montreal’s Galerie Lydia Monaro, who to this days carries the artist’s early, seminal works, in addition to his latest production.
Monet, his impressionistic surname notwithstanding, tips his hat to Andy Warhol and the art of Pop, as he did with the royal portraits, including splitting the work into a diptych, as Warhol did with his double portrait of the royal pair of the time, Prince Charles and the late Lady Di.
What is unique is Monet’s technique that combines collage with paint, to produce images that at first glance strike the viewer as photographs. Upon closer inspection, the texture of the paintings reveals the multi-layered approach, the transparency, and the ease with which the faces come to life.
Drawing from the pantheon of international celebrities, Monet has painted the faces of Madonna, Audrey Hepburn, the Dalai Lama, Robert de Niro, and the ever-mesmerizing Marilyn Monroe.
Monet uses pages from magazines and books as collage for the backdrops – in the case of the royal portraits, he hunted for books on the monarchy and the royals, incorporating the actual pages into the composition, thus placing the images in a larger, societal and historical context.
That is not always the case with his other paintings. Lettering and graphic accents are used as elements for the composition, with the focus remaining entirely on the face.
There is a touch of mannerism in his approach perhaps, but Monet’s art has struck a cord. It’s contemporary and accessible. Undeniably modern and engaged, his portraits appeal to a large public; faces recognizable and already appropriated by others, in his rendition, once again become works of art.
André Monet uses colour sparingly yet with gusto. It’s a rare commodity in the mostly monochromatic compositions, but when it appears, as in an orange tinged portrait of dreamy MM, or one of Jackie O, resembling a hand-coloured page from a personal scrapbook, it alters our reading of the piece.
Unapologetically commercial, Monet’s works are a reflection of our society, where being famous is all that is required to have status. He has found the goose that lays golden eggs, both in his choice of subject matter, and style. Intuitively, perhaps not, he has discovered the perfect outlet for his talent and choice of medium.