Art speaks volumes to many people around the world and what might be even more special is that one painting, sculpture, and drawing can make each person experience something different depending on their personal point of view and interpretation of the art piece. Similarly, each movement and art style reflects the era it was founded in, in which artists shared a common philosophy or goal no matter what they painted, drew, or sculpted. One art style that started the Modern Art era and opened doors for it to thrive is Impressionism, a movement that became prominent in the 1800s, especially in the 70s and 80s, and thanks to a band of Parisian painters Monet, Sisley, Bazille, and Renoir.
At the time, these painters revolutionized art by going against everything traditional painting stood for, exchanging lines, details, smooth blending, and contours for freely brushed and short strokes, intense and vibrant colors, and no shading.
They started painting outdoors, realistically bringing to life scenes of modern living and landscapes, even portraits and still life, all of which were previously done in a studio. And although, in the beginning, the movement faced harsh criticism from both the public and critics alike, it gradually gained the people’s favor and was considered fresh, original, and visually stimulating.
The foundation of the movement is accredited to one particular person – Oscar-Claude Monet, better known as Claude Monet who was the most prolific painter and the most consistent practitioner of the art style’s philosophy.
So, if you are interested in learning more about some of Claude Monet’s artwork, here are some of his best and most prominent paintings.
Style & Technique
Monet was a prolific artist with over 2500 works attributed to him, most of which are paintings but also pastels and drawings. The number is likely higher, however, he destroyed some of his works and others have probably been lost over time.
His focus was primarily on paintings, portraying subjects such as scenery, landscapes, and figures, mostly using mediums like oil and crayon. His style brought lighting and color to the foreground and they were the key elements of the entire movement which Monet used in the most ingenious ways.
Prominent Artworks & Analysis
1. Impression, Sunrise
If you are wondering where the name of the movement came from, look no further than one of Monet’s most famous artworks – Impression, Sunrise.
The chosen subject – a scene in the French port of Le Havre, depicts hazy imagery that has little to no detail at first glance. However, this candid work soon showcases a body of shimmering water and boats in the foreground over which a striking orange sun can be seen in the background. The bright hues of yellows and oranges brilliantly contrast darker tones of blues and grays, all created with separate brushstrokes that breathe life into the image. For more information about Claude Monet and his work, check this website.
2. Woman with a Parasol
Featuring a woman with a parasol, the painting is probably one of the best displays of the impact shadows and light have had on Impressionism. It perfectly showcases the direction the light is coming from, casting a shadow on the figure’s face and body. The picture is an unmatched work of art since the positioning makes it very hard to highlight any details and even have a proper look at the model. This is exactly why Monet is considered one of the masters of the style.
Interestingly, the parasol will make an appearance in many of his art which is unsurprising since women of that time used to actively carry them whenever they were outdoors in order to protect their eyes and skin.
3. Westminster Bridge (The Thames below Westminster)
Created during the time spent in London as a wartime refugee, the imagery is simple in a way that it clearly showcases a vertical dock with people in the foreground, balanced by a less distinguishable horizontal bridge, boats, and buildings in the back. The work also features some of Monet’s favorite motifs such as the shimmer of water, as well as a mist that creates a beautiful yet heavy atmosphere and blurry forms.
4. The Women in the Garden
Even though the piece features several figures, Camille, Monet’s future wife was the only model used. It was envisioned and composed to showcase the effects natural light has on its surroundings. This is why the figures were meticulously positioned in order to display the behavior of sunlight as it pierces through the trees, casting shadows on some parts of the figures and the environment while highlighting others.
5. Water Lilies, Setting Sun
This piece belongs to a water landscape group of artworks known as the Nympheas cycle.
Critics consider it his finest work which includes dozens of canvases containing images of lilies, water, and the sky, creating a mesmerizing panorama when it is put together, one that took 30 years to complete. Monet’s vision was to have the pieces displayed in a circular room and fill the walls with the horizon of water upon which lilies are scattered, spreading calmness, beauty, and tranquility throughout the space.
6. Boulevard des Capucines
Painted from the studio of one of Monet’s friends, the point of view in the picture is slightly different from most of his other works. It displays a scene of the typical daily life in Paris but in very little detail. With fast and short strokes, the crowd and their surroundings are captured in an abstract, almost blurry way, trying to create the illusion of movement and the liveliness of the city and its people.
7. The Cliffs of Etretat
Created on the coast of Normandy, in the city of Etretat the piece showcases unusual and high freestanding rocks and a naturally formed arch off of one of them. Painted from a spot that is only accessible by boat, it displays a single ray of sunlight perfectly hitting the upper part of the rocks while the rest of the piece is covered in shadows. This is another great example of just how much Monet enjoyed playing with lighting while painting landscapes and scenery outdoors.
Among Impressionists, Monet was a leader and an inspiration, one that gathered the greats like Manet, Renoir, Pissarro, Bazille, and Sisley to work together and form a movement that would forever change the art world. Never straying away from his perceptions and philosophy, it is understandable why he is considered one of the best, if not the best, Impressionist painter of all time.