Claude Monet was an innovative artist whose work gave a name to the movement “Impressionism,” which was defined by the capturing of light and natural forms in the late 1800s. Monet’s education and lifestyle assisted him in creating new techniques, produce unique pieces and make history. Claude Monet was born on November 14, 1840 in Paris but moved to Le Havre at a very young age. As a child he often made a small income as he was becoming a popular caricaturist. He soon entered a school of arts in Le Havre and later attracted the attention of Eugene Boudain who became Monet’s mentor. Boudain introduced him to “en plen air” painting which inspired his first recognized artwork, “View from Rouelles” or “Vue des bords de la Lezarde”.
Later on, Monet spent two years where he joined a studio and further practiced the effects of light “en plen air” with broken color and short brushstrokes. This is the technique that became known as Impressionism. The term was first coined by an art critic, describing one of Monet’s paintings, “Impression, Sunrise” that had been displayed in the studio of Nadar for the first time. Due to financial instability Monet stayed with another impressionist, Manet, in Argentuil for several years but was forced to sell many of his unappreciated paintings to survive.
Eventually, Monet started to gain respect and was fortunate to display his pieces in several successful exhibits. Monet continued to create many other famous paintings including “Haystacks(Meules)”, “Poplars(Peupliers)”, and “Series of Cathedrals(Rouen Cathedrals)”. Impressionist’s art is very diverse from the commonly used art methods of the time period. Instead of smooth paintings that made reference to literature or history their paintings were of life around them.
The process involves painting the light and painting directly from nature, expressing the visual as accurately as possible in the allotted time frame (natural light, sun setting over time causes different shades and shadows to appear which alters the picture you are viewing). Monet’s paintings were all done on location which is a demonstration of painting “en plen air”. He also used a limited color palette, he virtually eliminated the use of dark earthy colors and black. The colors were all opaque as well but he often mixed the colors by using thin, broken layers of paint to let the light shine through from the lower layers.
Many of Monet’s works were done as a series showing the changes of light over time and the different perspectives caused by it. Gare Saint-Lazare (1877. Oil on Canvas) This painting is one of a series of seven that had been rushed to be finished for an Impressionist exhibition that year. There are several buildings beyond the train station bathed in sunlight.
The color palette is composed of reds, oranges and yellows set against blue. Warmer reds are played against cooler blues and whites. In the foreground stand several onlookers as the train is entering the station as well as other pedestrian traffic in the far right of the painting. The paint is applied in short and abrupt strokes in several layers, allowing previous colors to show through. There are linear patterns apparent in the piece, the roof of the train station and its shadows on the tracks.
Monet has made the train appear delicate in its surroundings instead of making it out to be the powerful, beastly machine that it is. His concern is with the light and atmosphere as it had been with his landscape paintings. This gives the painting more glamour than the real life perception. Train stations are loud, dirty and filled with the aroma of fuel burning but Monet’s use of light makes it seem less menacing and more appealing. Claude Monet lived a life dedicated to innovating art and succeeded in being a founder of the Impressionism movement as well as creating numerous famous artworks.