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High Museum gives art lovers a window into Monets world
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‘Monet Water Lilies’

When: Through Aug. 23
Where: High Museum of Art, 1280 Peachtree St. NE, Atlanta
How much: $18 adults, $15 seniors age 65 and older and students, $11 ages 6-17, free for age 5 and younger
More info: 404-733-4400

ATLANTA - Just about anyone can take a brush to a canvas and cover it with paint. So what’s the big deal with “Monet Water Lilies,” on view through Aug. 23 at the High Museum of Art?

The exhibit shows the unique perspective of an art icon, French painter Claude Monet.

It features four of Monet’s monumental works, with a focus on “Reflections of Clouds on the Water-Lily Pond,” a 42-foot-long triptych, or three-panel painting.

If you go to the exhibit, you might see folks sitting silently in front of the painting, day dreaming of Monet’s garden in Giverny, France, where he was inspired to paint the masterpiece.

“There’s something immersive about them that I think people are just drawn in by them. They’re different than his other works because of the scale,” said Julie Forbes, head of Museum Interpretation at the High.

“This is very late in his career,” Forbes said of the painting, dated 1920. “So he has moved sort of past his Impressionist style and he’s doing something that is really moving into a more modern approach to painting. There’s no horizon line and you really are immersed in the water and the flowers, and I think that’s really powerful to people.”

Monet, born in 1840, focused on water lilies during the later years of his life, when cataracts affected his perception of the flowers and, some art historians believe, led him to create the beautifully blurry, abstracted style for which he is known.

“There’s a lot of debate in the art historical community about how much influence in the paintings there was from the effects of his vision,” Forbes said. “And how much was just sort of a genius of him moving in a much more modern and abstract direction.”

“Monet Water Lilies” begins a series of exhibits at the High in collaboration with The Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

“They’re going to do the same little focus show up there in New York, opening in September,” Forbes said.

Forbes said three more small exhibitions and two “big anchor shows,” set for the fall of 2011 and 2012, also will be part of the collaboration, bringing many more modern pieces to the museum, including works by Alexander Calder, Jackson Pollock, Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol.

If you go to “Monet Water Lilies,” don’t bring a camera with a flash, which can fade paintings. But the High wants guests to know they are welcome to take cell phone photos of the paintings.

Forbes said the museum wanted to encourage cyber-social art lovers to post the photos on Twitter, Facebook and MySpace.

“The museum talked with MoMA and came to an agreement with them that people could take pictures with their cell phones so that there could be that kind of sharing and energy within the exhibition about what people are seeing,” Forbes said.