Long Islanders can dive into the moments Claude Monet, the father of Impressionism, captured the essence of water lilies in his garden, a woman with a parasol and seas that almost drowned him.
“Beyond Monet,” a new show at the Samanea New York in Westbury, aims to evoke the French artist’s experiences by projecting more than 400 of his paintings onto a 30,000-square-foot space, creating an immersive journey of motion, original music and sound effects.
“When you are surrounded by the paintings that you already know and love on such a scale, you live them differently,” says art historian Fanny Curtat, a show consultant. “There’s something of a fantasy about that for people who are already familiar with these works.”
It was a moving experience for John Melillo, 75, and his daughter Beth Melillo, 50, art lovers who attended the exhibit days after it opened, flinched at oncoming trains from Monet’s paintings and almost felt the wash of waves in a turbulent sea.
“It was like going to Disneyworld,” says Melillo, a retired businessman from Eastport. “At times, the floor comes alive. It builds to an excitement that really took you aback. The trains were moving in one direction. The land was moving in another direction. Then you were in a seascape where everything was alive. They kept building and building and all of a sudden you’re drowning in the sea.”
The exhibit, which runs through Jan. 2, features iconic works reproduced on cookie tins, umbrellas and more since the artist’s death in 1926 at age 86. The hourlong experience, divided into three rooms, follows “Beyond Van Gogh,” which closed in September after being extended due to demand, according to Paquin Entertainment Group, the Canadian company behind the exhibits.
GETTING TO KNOW MONET
Light boxes in the first room, called The Introduction Hall, tell of Monet’s themes and genesis of the “Impressionism” label.
Whether it was his travels in Europe or the gardens at home in Giverny, the artist often painted the same subject 20 to 30 times, on a different hour, day, season or angle.
“Monet was a painter of the impossible,” Curtat says. “He was trying not to paint the object in front of him but the air between him and the object. He’s trying to grasp something that is truly ethereal, that is truly shifting. There’s something incredibly beautiful about that because it lends itself to paying attention to what is so fleeting in the world.”
Curtat says the public sees the beauty of his works, but the Introduction Hall reveals the darkness behind them.
Monet led a group of artists who made visible, overlapping brush daubs for the impression of form, light and mood, not the smoother strokes of traditional paintings. Art critics attacked this style and vilified what was then considered radical -- the Impressionists painting their pieces “en plein-air,” or outside, instead of in a studio.
THE WATERFALL ROOM
The next section, called The Waterfall Room, provides a perfect spot for attendees to insert themselves into a masterpiece for a photo.
“Monet’s artwork will be dripping down a panel to give the effect of a waterfall,” says Justin Paquin, head of exhibitions for Paquin Entertainment Group. “That will be on a loop and the effect is you’ll be walking through a waterfall.”
The show’s high-resolution images contain more than 4 trillion pixels, allowing guests “to become one with his paintings,” according to the show’s website.
THE INFINITY ROOM
In a 35-minute loop, Monet’s paintings are supersized onto walls, floor and ceiling as music and sound effects bring the show to a climax.
It’s the what Monet might have done if he were an artist today, Paquin says he imagines.
At one point, the colors and images of Stormy Sea at Etretat roil like waves against rocks.
It represents the moment Monet, immersed in his work on a beach, failed to see a huge wave. It knocked him down and took his canvas, Curtat says, and his palette slapped his face: “His beard was covered in blues and yellows, and he had to walk like this back to the hotel.”
SPOTLIGHT ON WATER LILIES
The water lilies in his gardens were Monet’s muses for 30 years, his final and largest iconic series.
“I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers,” he says in a quote projected in the Infinity Room.
The day after a truce was signed in 1918 between the allies and Germany, ending World War I, he decided to donate paintings of water lilies, which he viewed as peace symbols, to the Orangery Museum in Paris.
His talent lauded by then, Monet conceived of two large elliptical rooms at the museum for an almost endless loop of his painted panels of lilies. The two oval rooms formed the infinity symbol and the panels were installed shortly after his death, where there were no flowers, as he wished.
“He was afraid they were going to cut them from his garden,” Curtat says. “He loved them so much.”
WHEN | WHERE Through Jan. 2 at Samanea New York, 1500 Old Country Rd., Westbury
INFO 800-441-0819, beyondmonet.com
ADMISSION Adult $35.99-$40.99, child (age 5-15) $25.99-$30.99