On Oct. 23, 2022 four members of the German eco-extremist group Letzte Generation (Last Generation), entered the Museum Barberini in Potsdam, Germany and attacked a famous painting by French Impressionist Claude Monet (1840-1926).
The four entered the room where Monet’s 1890 oil painting Les Meules (Haystacks) was hanging on display. Two members of the group wore bright orange safety vests; they hurling liquified mashed potatoes onto the painting—then sat beneath the dripping canvas and glued their hands onto the wall. The other two miscreants video-taped the act. Fortunately the painting was protected by a glass shield. Then came the climate change Götterdämmerung speech:
“People are starving, people are freezing, people are dying. We are in a climate catastrophe, and all you are afraid of is tomato soup or mashed potatoes on a painting. You know what I’m afraid of? I’m afraid because science tells us that we won’t be able to feed our families in 2050. Does it take mashed potatoes on a painting to make you listen?!”
The police arrived and unglued the two vandals from the wall; they were arrested and are being investigated for “potential trespassing and damage of property.” At the time of this writing, the museum had made no assessment regarding possible damage to Monet’s painting.
On May 15, 2019, Monet’s Les Meules sold at Sotheby’s for $110.7 million, a record for the artist and for any impressionist artwork. It had been purchased by German software mogul and art collector Hasso Plattner. A major holder of Impressionist art, as well as artworks from the former communist state of East Germany, Plattner acquired the Monet for the permanent collection of the Museum Barberini, which he founded in 2017.
Claude Monet of course invented Impressionist painting, and thus has been dubbed the “Father of Impressionism.” I saw Monet’s Rouen Cathedral and Water Lily paintings when visiting the Musée D’Orsay in Paris, France many years ago, and I never forget them.
The Rouen Cathedral paintings are a series of thirty canvasses depicting the Cathedral in Normandy, France. Painted between 1892-93, the incredible works show the façade of the Cathedral under various lighting conditions—morning, noon, evening, from spring to winter. I stood in awe of the equally impressive Nymphéas Bleus (Blue Water Lilies), which were painted in 1916.
Les Meules is part of a series of twenty-five oil on canvas paintings Monet created on the subject of haystacks left standing in agricultural fields after harvest; the series of paintings started in the summer and ended the following spring.
He painted the scenes at farms near his home in Giverny, France.
Like his Rouen Cathedral series, the actual subject of the haystack series was light; Monet painted the haystacks during different times of the day and year; each canvas with a different color palette, and executed with paint loaded brush strokes.
It makes my blood boil that barbarians would sling mashed potatoes at the works of such a master. The eco-extremists of Letzte Generation are linked to Ultima Generazione of Italy, Just Stop Oil of the UK, and Extinction Rebellion of Australia and the UK. Unfortunately, you’ve not heard the last from these art hating barbarians.