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French Great Artist Cloud Monet - The Fleeting Impression

Posted by Art Of Legend India [dot] Com On 3:58 AM
Monet at work Under a huge white parasol, Monet works on one of his waterlily paintings in the garden at Giverny. Beside him stands his step-daughter Blanche Hoschede-Monet, ready to change the canvas on his easel.

The Fleeting Impression

Monet painted in the open air with a speed and fervour no earlier artist had approached. But as he grew older, he saw the need to work more in his studio, to refine and perfect his paintings.

Monet is often considered the greatest and most typical of the Impressionists. This judgment reflects not only the quality of his work, but also his wholehearted dedication to the ideals of Impressionism throughout his mature -fife. In particular, he was committed to the Impressionist practice of painting out of doors. This in itself was not new, but Monet made it an article of faith.

None of his predecessors had worked out-of-doors to the same ambitious scale. In the early 19th century, for example, John Constable had often made sketches in oils outdoors, but only as preparatory studies for larger paintings. And Boudin and Jongkind, the two artists who had the most important influence on Monet's early work, also worked on a fairly small scale. Monet differed from these painters both in his conviction and in his ambitions. He made outdoor painting not just a basis for further elaboration, but the central feature of his huge output.

Women in the Garden Monet painted this eight-foot high canvas entirely out-of-doors in 1866-7. According to the painter Gustave Courbet, who visited him, Monet would not paint even the leaves in the background unless the light was just right. Monet's declared aim was to catch the passing impressions of light and atmosphere, 'the most fleeting effects', as he called them, and in his dedication to this goal he took measures that often had an element of farce about them. In 1866-7 he painted one of his most famous works, Women in the Garden, a canvas more than eight feet high, and to enable him to paint all the picture out-of-doors, he had a trench dug so the canvas could be raised or lowered by pulleys to the required height.

Much later in his career, when he was working on a series of paintings such as his Haystacks, his step-daughter Blanche Hoschede-Monet used a wheelbarrow to carry his unfinished paintings around the fields with him; when the light changed perceptibly, Monet would switch to another canvas that matched the new conditions.



Lady with a Parasol, This brisk and vigorous painting, dating from 1886, conveys the atmosphere of a blustery day the rough brushstrokes of the sky suggest the scudding motion of the clouds. Monet had to work quickly to capture such fast-changing conditions in the weather. Bad weather did not weaken his determination to capture the effects he wanted. One observer described him working on the Normandy coast in 1885: With water streaming under his cape, he painted the storm amid the swirl of the salt water. He had between his knees two or three canvases, which took their place on his easel one after another, each for a few minutes at a time. On the stormy sea different light effects appeared. The painter watched for each of these effects, a slave to the comings and goings of the light, laying down his brush when the effect was gone, placing at his feet the unfinished canvas, ready to resume work upon the return of a vanished impression.

Such accounts of Monet at work part-heroic, part-absurd illustrate what he and the other Impressionists found was the greatest drawback to their new approach to painting: the effects in nature change so quickly that the more sensitive air artist is to them, the less time he can spend on a picture before any particular effect has gone. Referring to his haystack series in October 1890, Monet wrote: 'I really am working terribly hard, struggling with a series of different effects, but at this time of year the sun sets so quickly that I can't keep up with it.' To overcome this problem Monet began to work more and more in the studio to re-touch or revise his paintings. But publicly he liked to maintain his image as an outdoor painter.



Pictures in series, In 1891, Monet exhibited his first major series of paintings The Haystacks. These two, from the series of 15, illustrate his fascination with the varied colours produced by natural Monet developed a free and spontaneous painting technique which enabled him to work at speed. His brushwork is remarkably flexible and varied, sometimes broad and sweeping, sometimes fragmented and sparkling. Occasionally he used the handle of the brush to scratch through the paint surface and create a more broken, textured effect. His last paintings, the great series representing the waterlilies in his garden at Givemy, were executed more slowly than his earlier works and many of them have a richly encrusted surface, the paint dragged and superimposed, layer upon shimmering layer.

Paul Cezanne, a landscape painter of equal stature, declared that Monet was 'only an eye, but, my God, what an eye!' Many of Monet's own observations seem to bear out that this was the way he thought of himself. He told a pupil that 'he wished he had been born blind and then suddenly regained his sight, so that he would have begun to paint without knowing what the objects were that he saw before him'. And he advised 'When you go out to paint, try to forget what objects you have in front of you, a tree, a field,.. Merely think, here is a little square of blue, here an oblong of pink, here a streak of yellow, and paint it just as it looks to you, the exact colour and shape, until it gives your own naive impression of the scene.'

But no artist simply reproduces what he sees in front of him, and although Monet might strive to be objective, he was never impersonal. His increasing reliance on studio work shows that he realized that his art consisted not merely in observing and recording, but in finding a pictorial equivalent in opaque paint on a two-dimensional surface for the infinitely varied effects of light. And as with all great art, there is a dimension to Monet's work that ultimately evades analysis or explanation. His great series of waterlily paintings, in particular, are the product not simply of an exceptionally keen eye and an unerring hand, but also of a poetic spirit.

Writer – Marshall Cavendish

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