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New Exhibit Features Monet, Manet

June 12, 1998

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A new exhibit at the National Gallery of Art, featuring two painters who are sometimes confused with each other, puts art lovers and train buffs on the same track.

For the first time since the works were completed 120 years ago, the gallery has brought into one room all 11 paintings that impressionist Claude Monet did in and around a big Paris rail station. And there’s a 12th he did at a suburban station near his home in Argenteuil, on a line leading into the Paris terminal.

The show, which opens Sunday, also includes ``The Railway″ by Edouard Manet _ a landmark impressionist painting. The work shows a little girl with her governess and dog, gazing across the tracks of the same Paris station. No train can be seen, only great billows of smoke _ the kind of snapshot in oils that the Impressionists loved.

Though he lived and worked near the station, Manet lacked Monet’s love of trains. Manet did once ask the management of a railroad for permission to paint a locomotive, with the engineer and fireman. He had more interest in the crew than the train, and the project never came off.

``For Manet, man is always at the center,″ Juliet Wilson-Bareau, co-curator of the show, wrote in the catalog. ``For Monet, it is the spectacle, the visual experience itself.″

It’s not only train buffs who may get the idea that Manet and Monet were the same painter.

Co-curator Philip Conisbee overheard one museum visitor say, ``Monet, Manet. I’ve heard both, but don’t worry _ both are right.″

Manet came from a wealthy family, while Monet was poor for much of his life. Manet, eight years older, had a great influence on his young friend.

One painting, by another artist, shows Manet at his easel with a group of admirers, Monet hovering at the edge. Manet owned some of the younger man’s work and would show it admiringly to visitors. He also gave Monet a good deal of financial help.

Monet repaid the debt, many years of after Manet’s death, by making sure that the French government bought his mentor’s great nude, ``Olympia.″

The confusion goes back to 1865, when Monet’s signature on a painting was mistaken for Manet’s _ ``to Manet’s considerable annoyance,″ said Wilson-Bareau.

The show ``Manet, Monet and the Gare Saint-Lazare″ (pronounce gar san la-ZAR) took some detective work, Conisbee said. Several paintings were in private collections, one in Japan.

Wilson-Bareau drew major attention in the art world by identifying Manet’s portrayal of the entrance to his studio at 4 rue St. Petersbourg in the upper left-hand corner of ``The Railway.″ Monet lived nearby at 26 rue d’Edimbourg (Edinburgh).

Monet got permission to paint inside the station. Seven of the pictures he did were listed in one of the early Impressionist shows.

Hugues LeRoux, a critic of the time, described Monet perched with his easel on a pile of crates.

``Though the station workers were in his way,″ LeRoux wrote, ``he sat there patiently like a hunter, brush at the ready, waiting for the moment when he could put paint to canvas. That’s the way he always works: clouds aren’t any more obliging sitters than locomotives.″

Roofs and columns from Monet’s time still stand in the busy station, which looks a good deal like it did when it was built on the site of the first rail terminal in France.

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