Arts Everyday Living: What Do You Know About Monet, Part 12–In the Heart of London

Claude Monet, The Houses of Parliament, Sunset, 1903, oil on canvas, Chester Dale Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Title: The Houses of Parliament, 1903

Artist: Claude Monet, 1840-1926



Did you know that Claude Monet began his career as a teenager and continued to create until his death at 86 in 1926? Most of us are familiar with Monet’s iconic Impressionist works. However Monet, like any great artist, expressed himself in multiple styles. So for the next month, experience the artistic world of the French master, from the young, aspiring painter to one of the most famous figures of his day.

Here is the twelfth part of our series:

#12–During the 1890s and the early 1900s, Monet created a number of series near his home in Giverny, the subjects ranging from scenes of nature including haystacks (see: blog #11) and poplars to architectural monuments such as the medieval era Rouen Cathedral. However, in 1899, 1900, and 1901, Monet journeyed to London, for three painting campaigns ranging in length from six weeks to two months. He had already lived there some 30 years before with his wife Camille and son Jean to escape the Franco-Prussian War.  

What attracted Monet to the British capital? By the late nineteenth century, Monet had finally achieved not only artistic recognition but prosperity as well based on a growing market for his works of art. He could afford now to stay in the newly built Savoy Hotel in the heart of London, offering him a unique view of Waterloo Bridge and Charing Cross Bridge which he both painted daily from his room. While the location of the Houses of Parliament required Monet to move to the site of St. Thomas Hospital, where he could look towards the historic center of Great Britain’s government, ultimately creating some 20 canvases of it.

Above all, though, Monet was attracted, even obsessed by the fog and accompanying atmosphere that covered London’s urban environment, intensified by the pollution of coal-burning furnaces. An attitude difficult for us to understand in the  twentieth first century, when we now realize the threat to the climate due to industrialization. Yet, Monet, lived in a different era when the impact of  deteriorating air quality and rising temperatures was not yet widely considered.   

So that the Houses of Parliament, Sunset above is conceived by the artist as being part of an otherworldly realm. Where the last rays of  daylight break through the evening sky, though thick with clouds and possibly smoke, that softly glows in multi-colored hues of lavender and rose. The dying sun also illuminates the watery surface of the river in a shimmering pathway defined by the short, rapid brushstrokes typical of Monet’s impressionist technique. While the deep blue silhouette of the iconic Parliament building floats before us, its massive tower and spires reflecting in the eternal Thames.

Why not google more interpretations of the Houses of Parliament by Monet:

Houses of Parliament, Seagulls, 1903, Princeton University Art Museum

Houses of Parliament, London, 1900-1901, Art Institute of Chicago

Houses of Parliament, (Effect of Fog), 1903-1904, Metropolitan Museum of Art







In the public domain, courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

The National Gallery of Art does not endorse or approve use of the above image or any of the material on this website. Nor has the National Gallery of Art participated in any projects utilizing the said image.








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