Monet's 5 Most Famous Paintings
During Claude Monet’s early career, he was harshly criticized for his style. He started using quick, loose brushstrokes, and painting “en plein air”; which means he painted outside instead of in a controlled studio setting. All of this represented a move away from the highly realistic paintings of the time, and a move towards more abstract paintings. All of these new techniques were quite “avant-garde” for Monet’s time, yet today he is one of the most widely loved and iconic painters. Many of his best and most important paintings show his fascination for water and light, and the changing conditions of the sky due to time of day, the weather, and the seasons.
This painting is part of a collection of paintings from the same viewpoint, all under different weather conditions, greatly emphasizing Monet’s interest in the study of the effects of light. The subject matter of this painting is not the actual Cathedral, but the atmospheric light and colors produced. In order to produce this series, as well as many other series studying the effects of changing light, Monet would have dozens of paintings started simultaneously, and work on each one throughout the day for a few minutes at a time while those light conditions lasted. The Rouen Cathedral series received critical acclaim and commercial success instantly.
This painting is of a bridge and water lily pond Monet created in his garden, which is possible to visit in Giverny, France today. The painting shows the strong influence of Japanese art on Monet, as these types of arched bridges were commonly seen only in Japanese landscape art at the time. In fact, Japanese art was quite trendy! Monet’s estate still has an excellent collection of woodblock prints of Japanese landscapes today. Many of Monet’s other paintings include this bridge, and this iconic painting is instantly recognizable as Monet to many people around the world.
Monet created about 250 water lilies paintings based on his garden in Giverny, and water-lilies were the main subject matter in his paintings for the last 30 years of his life. Again, this series was based off the changing light conditions, while retaining the same subject matter as a means of comparison. Interestingly enough, you can trace Monet’s vision problems due to cataracts though the colors he uses in this series; it is thought he used bolder colors when his vision was most poor. In June 2008, a painting in this series was sold for 41 million pounds at Christie’s auction house in London; clearly, it is an incredibly important painting.
This painting shows a view of a port in Le Havre using Monet’s characteristic loose brushstrokes, and uses the complementary colors of blue and orange. In naming this painting for an exhibition, Monet helped give the Impressionist movement their name,
“Landscape is nothing but an impression, and an instantaneous one, hence this label that was given us, by the way because of me. I had sent a thing done in Le Havre, from my window, sun in the mist and a few masts of boats sticking up in the foreground….They asked me for a title for the catalogue, it couldn’t really be taken for a view of Le Havre, and I said: ’Put Impression”. Impression, Sunrise was done at the beginning of Monet’s career, when his new style was not yet well received. In fact, Louis Leroy, a writer from Le Charivari, titled a scathing review of the show “The Exhibition of the Impressionists,” thus solidifying the Impressionists’ name.
Again, Monet uses repetitive subject matter in this 25 painting series, showing the difference in light conditions due to weather, time of day, and the seasons. This particular haystack painting shows the hazy, grey light of summer, and effectively shows the thick air of summer through less detail in the subject matter. It was at this time Monet started to have financial success and critical acclaim with this series, which continued through his Rouen Cathedral series, Water-Lilly Pond painting, and Water Lilies series.