Claude Monet Essay, Research Paper
Claude Monet: Grainstack (Sunset)
Claude Monet’s Grainstack (Sunset) is the painting I chose from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Monet was an impressionist painter in France, and did most of his work at his home at Giverny. Impressionism got is name from a painting that Monet painted, Impression Sunrise. Impressionist paintings are put into a category based on characteristics such as light that draws attention to objects, rough textures, and visual pleasure that the viewer receives upon looking at the paintings. Impressionist paintings are art for arts sake and focus on leisure and nature. These paintings are generally the most well known and popular paintings because of their attractive appearance.
The Grainstack (Sunset) was painted between 1890 and 1891, and is a part of Monet’s first true series paintings. During the time of this series
was painted, there was a lot of unrest going on in Europe. Many of the major cities were experiencing industrial growth, and it was causing the people to suffer from a magnitude of social problems. There were high rates of suicide, and anarchist groups. Over the years to follow, 1889 to 1894, there were at least 600 strikes involving 120,000 workers. There were bombings, raids, and wide spread fear across the country. It was during this time period that Monet was going to establish himself as one of the major painters of the country.
As the viewer looks at this painting, they are taken into a rural scene. You notice first the grainstack as the major object in the painting. As you move around the painting, there are many striking areas of light. The sunset causes a brilliant display of colors around the scene. The sky is fading in the background as the sun sunsets. There is a small amount of blue still hanging in the sky, and under that a large portion of a yellow hue from the sun setting. As the suns sets further it cause a pink color above the land. The sunset has cause the grainstacks color to darken. You can see that the light left in the scene is on the other side of the stack. There is a shadow cast of the back side, making the stacks top dark brown, and the bottom a dark red.
The rural scene in the Grainstack (Sunset), as well as the other grainstacks in his series paintings, all basically share many of the same characteristics. The haystacks are never overwhelmed by light. As in the Grainstack (Sunset), the stack holds it own in the painting. The light simply draws attention to the painting to it. The conical top and body of the stack are outlined by the light and make it the focus of the painting. It is very rare for the stacks to be alone. At first glance in the painting they are hard to notice, but when the viewer looks closer at the painting there is a row of farmhouses in the background of the painting. The farmhouse to the farthest right part of the painting is the largest. They decrease in size until the middle house and then begin to get larger again. These farmhouses complete the landscape and give grainstack a place, so it is just not sitting out in an open field with nothing else around it.
The farmhouses in the background of the painting represent a lot of what France was. The agriculture at this time was very important to the economy of France. Monet lived in an area that was mainly farm land all around him. The grainstacks were a vital product to the farmers who inhabited these farmhouses. These grainstacks represented the wealth of the farmers and the town, as well as their hopes for the future. The stacks had
been carefully constructed, suggesting that the farmers, who built these, obviously took a lot of time and care in getting the stacks up. The grainstacks also show that the fields were fertile for growing and that the land was producing for the farmers (Hayes Tucker, Monet in the 90’s, pg. 83-84). The viewer can tell that the farmhouses were also an essential part of the painting. The homes were placed in the same horizontal as the cones of the stacks. They provide themselves with enough magnitude to hold themselves against the larger figures.
There is an enormous difference between Monet’s depiction of farm living and the work the farmers did, and the Realists depiction how life was. Monet gave a picture of hard-working people, who tended to their land with great detail and hard work. The Realists on the other hand had a tendency to make life appear a little better than what it really was.
The Grainstack (Sunset) is a highly geometric painting. The grainstack has a conical top and the bottom that supports it is a parallelogram. Many of the objects in the painting run parallel with the rest of the painting. The horizon where the sun is setting runs parallel with the mountain or hilly area in the background of the painting. The farmhouses also run parallel with this, but also with the center of the grainstack, and the
fields below it. The farmhouses roofs all run diagonally with each other as well as with the roof of the stack (Hayes Tucker, Monet in the 90’s, pg. 77). Each item of the painting has something that it relates to in a geometrical way. Even though the shapes may see uniform in description, the grainstacks and farmhouse have their own identities. When looking at several grainstacks each one has its own individual characteristics. Physically some of them may be smaller with larger conical tops, or exactly the opposite. Nature also plays a role in their particular appearance. Some of the grainstacks are covered in snow, are shown at sunrise, or they have a combination of effects. Monet had an ability to make them stand out from each other and make them extremely different.
When the viewer is looking at the painting, there are a few details that draw you into the painting. First, is the low view point of the painting. As a person stands viewing the painting they are lower than everything in it. It appears that the grainstack is on a bit of an incline, and the viewer is at the bottom of a small hill. From the bottom of the hill you can see all of the grainstack, the land behind it, farmhouses, and all the scenery behind that. The view however, stops on the right side of the grainstack. From the low viewpoint it appears that the grainstack blocks your view except for on the
left side. In the painting there is an expansive view of the sky. The top of the grainstack only takes up a portion of the painting even though it appears to be the largest part of the painting. The viewer gets a view of the bright colors in the sky that light up Monet’s work.
There is a division between the two halves of the painting. The right side of the painting is also darker because the sun has already set on that part. The colors almost keep you to that one side so there is focus on just the
grainstack. The shadow cast beneath the stack, dulls the colors in a diagonal pattern to the corner of the painting. The left side of the painting is much brighter and inviting. The sun has not completely yet, so there is an array and mixture of color. From the field, to the mountains, to the sky, attention is focused on this half of the painting. This side is more inviting and warm to the viewer.
There were a few factors that influenced Monet during this time when he was painting the Grainstack Series. He was the new owner of his house at Giverny, and he was spending a lot of time outdoors at his home. He was able to spend more time than usual outside because of the mild winters they were experiencing. The temperature was rarely dropping below twenty degrees, and snow was only falling enough to lightly cover the ground for a
short while. This was enabling Monet to be outside at really paint what he was seeing first hand, and with out memory. However, one of the major problems was that he was painting in the outdoors. The appearance of the sky, whether or not the sun is rising or setting, gave Monet a limited amount of time before the moment he was painting was gone. This forced him to sometimes put the work away and continue it when the light was similar (Hayes Tucker, Monet in the 90’s, pg. 77).
When researching art works more carefully, there is a lot to be learned. Looking into a painting and finding out what is behind it makes the work a lot more interesting. Monet’s grainstacks have not only taught me about him as a painter and why he painted as he did, but also about France and what was going on during this period. His works are a beautiful representation of what life was like, and what Monet was experiencing right in his own backyard.
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