Art Essay, Research Paper
?Claude Monet at the National Gallery of Art?
Claude Monet is most definately my favorite Painter of all time. Widely considered the foremost Impressionist painter, Monet inspired Masters like Degas and Renoir. Monet?s paintings, characterized by their blurred lines, quick brush strokes and interpretation of light, capture the essence of the subject without the harsh realism of previous centuries.
Earlier on in his career Monet?s paintings attempted to catch the momentary light and mobility of his subject. His paintings were done quickly and almost completely outdoors. As his career progressed, he became increasingly fascinated with the atmosphere. Late in his career Monet devoted himself to painting one subject ten, twenty or thirty times. Repeating subjects so that he could show the continuous atmosphere generated by his landscapes.
The Display I saw of Monet?s was at the National Gallery of art. This one small gallery in a huge museum has drawn me repeatedly over the year. The dozen or so paintings have captured me for hours. They are mainly later works, and one out of a series of paintings. I will examine the five paintings that caught my attention the most. Each is a testimony to the individual style of Monet. The first I looked at was ?The Waterloo Bridge: Grey Day? painted in 1903. When I first walked into the room and looked at this painting all I saw was gray. That is what the painting is, Grey. It is a landscape of a suburban bridge (The Waterloo bridge, France) with a city in the background. This Picture does no credit to the real thing, but it will do.
Copyright ?2000 National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.
The true brilliance of the painting is that for highlights and low lights Monet did not use grays or browns, typical for showing a foggy day. Instead, he used Pinks, lavenders and a brilliant scarlet to represent the traffic crossing the bridge. The subtle colors combined with the quick and graceful brush strokes capture the feeling of a cloudy day. I can imagine people crossing the bridge encountering the mist of the cloud, looking behind them and seeing the outlines of the factories. Monet does not use clear lines to define the physical landmarks. But on a cloudy day, who can see clear definition anyway. It is more about the hints of what is behind the gray. It is amazing to see a picture transform when you get closer and inspect what is so small that it cannot be seen without truly contemplating what is being represented.
After ?The Waterloo Bridge: Grey day? I moved on to ?Palazzo de Mula-venice? painted in 1908. This is a truly amazing piece. All definition between the water and the building is gone. Instead, Monet uses a difference in brush strokes to separate the two. Even that definition is minor. The water and the building seem to grow together. The color schemes of both are virtually identical. Looking from the top to bottom, the building simply fades into the water, and the opposite is true when looking from the bottom to the top.
Copyright ?2000 National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.
This is not realism; it is the definition of impressionism. Venice is a city defined by its waterways. The architecture goes right to the water, creating a feeling that the city is floating on the river ways. The same feeling is captured in this painting. The only difference in color is the flicker of red in the windows. As if the city begins beyond the walls of the river, before that everything is water. It is amazing to see the building taking shape from the water. Looking at this painting is surreal; I felt the sense that the frame of the picture was a mere window frame looking into a fantasy. That is the exact atmosphere of Venice that Monet captures.
A painting that best displays the technique of Monet is ?A Japanese Footbridge? (1899)
This prized waterlilly pond and bridge, which he built himself at his home in Giverny, eventually became his only subject for painting. This painting demonstrates Monet?s use or lack of use of outlines. There is little change from the bushes and the water. The waterlillies seem suspended, with only the bridge and its reflection to remind us of the water. The absence of sky furthers the continuity of the picture, capturing the bridge in an enclosure of green. The contrast of brush stokes between the water lilies and the reflection demonstrates his mastery of definition without actual boundaries. The only clearly painted object is the bridge yet the power of the painting is in everything else.
The next two paintings are meant to be experienced together. ?The Roven Cathedral-West Facade at sunlight and sunset? (1894) are the two paintings that initially drew me to Monet. The first time I ever saw them was in the beginning of the year when I ventured into the National Gallery of the art on a mission to ?Explore D.C.? I saw these two paintings next together and the first thing I thought of was a quote from a totally unrelated movie: ?a full on Monet is something that looks good from a far, but up close its just a big old mess?- The movie Clueless, 1996
Up close, these two representations of the Cathedral are almost indiscernible from mixed paint on a painter?s palette, just swirls of other colors. The amazing this is when you step back and the painting goes from a glob of colors to a rather remarkable representation of a cathedral at different times during the day.
These two pictures are a little dark but you can imagine the experience. This series truly accomplishes Monet?s goal in painting. Not to stay true to the subjects image, but to stay true to the feelings, or emotions surrounding the subject.
?To me the motif itself is an insignificant factor , what I want to reproduce is what exists between the motif and me? ? Claude Monet (1840-1926
An artistic manifesto with an almost philosophical twist and the amazing thing is that he does it. The Color of the light seems tangible, like a reflection. Though hazy and blurred there is the feeling that you are really looking out on the cathedral either in sunlight or sunset. This kind of painting uses a completely new concept. Instead of painting strictly the subjects, the artist uses the subject as a backdrop to the more prevalent emotion or ?atmosphere?. These two pictures really caught my attention and I must have spent at least a half hour staring. This is the brilliance of Monet. It seems less of a painting, the work of a man, and more like a window into Utopia.
A true master transcends his paint and canvas and creates a moment frozen in time. Seeing my first Monet was like walking past a window and being captured by what I saw, I never expected this feeling. It was a surprise how a work of art could change your reality while you are in it?s midst. The way he used light and colors impressed me so much, I couldn?t believe the skill. It shows talent when an artist paints a subject so realistically that it looks almost like a photograph, by a photograph is still two-dimensional. Monet created depth and as he loved to say Atmosphere. His paintings come out of the frame, envaloping you in a moment in time and space. Artistic expression is so much more that what you cee on a canvas or any other medium. It is the expression, the motive, the emotion. Something that you can feel, something that Monet has mastered.