Oscar-Claude Monet was one of the founders of Impressionism. In fact, the term ‘Impressionism’ is derived from one of his paintings, Impression, Sunrise. This particular painting was first exhibited in 1884 in Paris and was the first of many independent exhibitions Monet held as an alternative to the Salon de Paris. Monet was born in Paris in 1840 and died at the age of 86 in 1926. He was known for revisiting the same scenes many different times to capture them in different light and different seasons. This article will discuss some of Monet’s most famous and influential paintings.
This is one of Monet’s most famous paintings and was completed in 1872. It depicts a view of the harbour in Le Havre at sunrise. The whole scene is covered in mist and you can just about see the masts of boats in the harbour in the distance. There are a few smaller boats in the foreground. The sun can be seen in the distance and is a dull orange colour. There’s a dull and sort of faded quality to the whole painting and there are loose brush strokes instead of firm contours. This was intentional on Monet’s part, as he sought to depict the misty scene as the impression it made on him. In other words, he didn’t depict it exactly as it was in real life, instead he depicted the very first impression the scene made on him when he first saw it.
This is a series of paintings, rather than a single painting. In the late 1880s Monet developed a water garden around the pond at his home in Giverny, similar to Japanese-style water gardens. From the year 1900 to 1926, Monet painted the water lily pond a staggering 250 times, each time capturing it in different light and in different seasons. The pond fills the canvas, allowing the viewer to be completely submerged in it. When you look at the different Water Lilies paintings, it’s fascinating to see how the same scene can be captured in so many different ways. In fact, Monet began suffering from cataracts while he was working on this series of paintings.
The Magpie is one of around 140 snowscapes painted by Monet. It was completed during the winter of 1868-69 at a house in Etretat where Monet was staying at the time. It is commonly believed that France experienced a series of severe winters around this time, which resulted in many snowscapes being produced. The Magpie depicts a lone magpie perched atop a gate, with sunlight casting shadows behind a fence joining it. This painting was one of the first where Monet used colour in his shadows, allowing for a more realistic depiction of the shadows produced by the fence. The Impressionists were deviating from the normal practice of simply darkening the colour of whatever was to be cast in shadow. This painting is widely regarded as one of Monet’s finest snowscape paintings, as it shows him skilfully experimenting with light and shadow in a wintry setting.
The Poppy Field, near Argenteuil
This painting was completed in 1873 and is one of the few Monet paintings to show human beings. It depicts Monet’s wife Camille and their son Jean not once, but twice. They appear in the foreground at the bottom of a hill with poppies on it, and again at the top of the hill further into the background. The depiction of them on top of the hill shows less detail and is vaguer, but it’s still clearly them. What this painting shows is a simple and relaxing stroll through the beautiful poppy fields just outside Argenteuil. The contours appear to be very loosely defined and the poppies appear to be a bit bigger than they should be. It is thought Monet was adding an abstract element to this painting by doing this.
The Artist’s Garden at Giverny
After purchasing the Giverny estate, Monet redesigned the entire garden in front of the house. He was keen to have his house surrounded by flowers of all sorts of different colours, seeing his garden as a masterpiece in itself. His colourful garden was a great source of inspiration for him. In this painting, created in 1900, Monet beautifully captures the vibrancy and vivacity of his garden. He designed his garden so it would meet his needs – he wanted to capture nature full of loud, lively colours, so he made sure his garden was full of these colours. This isn’t Monet capturing nature unaffected by man; instead it shows Monet deliberately influencing nature to make a beautiful painting. He was painting nature as he saw it, but he had a hand in creating what he would then go on to paint.
These are just a few of the many landscape paintings created by Monet. What’s great about Monet’s landscapes is that they show just how experimental and forward-thinking he was. Instead of following what previous landscape artists had done, Monet took things further, explored new methods and developed new styles. He has influenced many artists throughout the years and his landscapes have left a lasting impression in art history.