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impression, sunrise (c. 1872), monet

Artist: Claude Monet (1840-1926)

Technique: Oil on canvas

Dimensions: 49.5 x 65 cm

Year: c. 1872

Location of Creation: Havre

Current Location: Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris

Movements: Impressionism

Theme: Impression of nature

Subject: River scene at sunset

painting summary

This painting depicts the sunrise over Le Havre’s harbor, Monet’s hometown. It shows the sun encapsulated by the rising morning mist, the sparkling water, with little boats bobbing on the twinkling surface. There are two clear small rowboats in the foreground and the bright burning sun as the main elements. In the middle ground, more fishing boats are included, while in the background on the left side silhouettes of tall masts ships. Behind them are other misty shapes that smoky clusters of steamships, while on the right in the distance are other masts and chimneys silhouetted against the sky.

general description

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content analysis

Transience of nature and modern life: mists and clouds of smoke from steamships, synthesized composition and rapid painting of an ever changing reality.

Ephemeral Apparition: light of the sun represented as a flamboyant orange ball on the horizon, reflected on the shimmering water.

Reflection of the chromatic surface of life: capturing of the superficial beauty under different lights, capturing of the delectation of the moment.

Spatial representation: linear perspective, smaller objects on the backplane and high placed horizon line.

Leading Role of Colour: light colors of the clear and natural light outdoors.

Clarity of the Colour: contrast of pure and strong colors – ton-sur-ton.

Complementary Colours: pop of orange vaguely on the horizon in the blue-grey haze.

Synthesized Shapes: silhouettes (dark boats), open outlines and few brushstrokes.

Spatial Distance: diagonal line of successive boats towards the center of the image.

Counter Light: silhouettes of slightly darker shapes against the brightness of the morning sun.

Main Goal: capturing the fleeting moments of modern life.

In Situ: observation of the light at play (light’s effect on objects and colour), painted outdoors.

Very Little Detail: Everchanging natural spectacle.

Faithful Portrayal of the Morning Atmosphere: blurred appearance of dawn breaking over the sea.

Fascination with Light: study of the light effects on water and of the best way of portraying it.

Study of the Human Perception of the Light: different moments of the day, different perspectives and locations.

Intimate View of the Sea: thorough understanding of the sea’s dynamics (having grown up by the sea).

Sketch-like Quality and Unfinished Appearance: rapid process visible on the final work.

Exposed Work Process: visible sketch under the thin layer of paint.

Painting Technique of Pale ton-sur-ton: breakdown of colors, separately applied to certain points, spots or strokes.

Highly Criticized at the Time: free treatment of shapes, uncommon strong and light colours, considered to be trivial techniques, far from reality.

‘Impressionist’: mocking term, derived from this work’s title, to describe the group of artists that participated alongside Monet (like Renoir and Degas), a term that lingered and led to the movement’s name ‘Impressionism’.

Revolutionary Thinking: capturing of the visual impression – painting what is seen, and not what one knows – beginning of the exploration of expressive properties in the 20th century: colour, light, line and form.

Non-objective Art: dissolution of the traditional form (atmospheric flickering veil, disappearing objects behind it).

artist quotes

“The motif is insignificant for me; what I want to represent is what lies between the motif and me.”

“They wanted to know its title for the catalogue; [because] it couldn’t really pass for a view of Le Havre, I replied, ‘Use Impression’. Someone derived ‘Impressionism’ from it and that’s when the fun began”.

“Everything that is painted directly and on the spot always has a force, a power, a vivacity of touch that cannot be re-created in the studio.”

painting details

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Artist: Claude Monet
Title: Port of Le Havre
Date: 1874
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 60.38 x 101.9 cm
Location: Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania, USA

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Artist: Claude Monet
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