Arts Everyday Living: What Do You Know About Monet?, Part 6–Argenteuil, Discovering Paradise

Claude Monet, Argenteuil, c. 1872, oil on canvas, Ailsa Mellon Bruce Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Title: Argenteuil

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 sixth entry of our series:

# 6. By the end of 1871, Monet and his small family of Camille and Jean were settling in the Parisian suburb of Argenteuil, just 15 minutes by train from the city. Camille and Claude had married in June, 1870, spending their honeymoon in the fashionable resort of Trouville, along the coast of Normandy. However, shortly after the Franco-Prussian War erupted and the Monets escaped to London where they resided until the war’s end.

Argenteuil offered them stability after a period of uncertainty, away from their native France. A paradise then of picturesque houses and gardens surrounded by the countryside, Argenteuil soon became the crucible of Impressionism where Monet spent the next six years realizing his vision. Yet, it was a gradual process that began in the heart of the village by the Seine river, just  a short walk from Monet’s rented home. For to see through Monet’s eyes, we also must follow in his footsteps, along the roads and pathways that he experienced on a daily basis.

In Argenteuil, for instance, we could be standing with the artist as he positioned his canvas on its easel. Generally working in plein air, or outdoors, not back in the studio which had been the tradition for centuries of Western art. But why did Monet choose this particular view, creating at least 5 landscapes of its changing color and light throughout the day. Was he initially attracted to the elegant chateau ahead of us, a local landmark that would be difficult to ignore?*  Or is it the Seine river, flowing peacefully off to our left, where sailboats glide serenely on the smooth surface? Or the grove of trees to our right?

What about the sense of space and depth in the overall composition? Taking us down what was called the local promenade where Parisian tourists strolled on Sundays and holidays, liberated from the drudgery of the work week. The sky, too, dotted with delicate, wispy clouds, directing our  gaze upward and beyond.

Although how does Argenteuil compare to a another painting, The Bridge at Argenteuil (see: our July 30, 2023 blog) done approximately two years later? In which Monet invites us to contemplate another favorite location, closer to the river itself. Do you notice the  brighter and more intense spectrum of colors used by Monet overall? While the water itself is broken up into individual multi-colored strokes, in what was then considered an innovative, even revolutionary technique? In Argenteuil, in comparison, Monet is more reserved in his application of paint or pigment, as a way to highlight patches of sunlight on the promenade or the white sail in the distant boat on our left, or the sketchy forms of the women under the trees on our right.

*Note: smoke stacks behind the building is an indication of the growing industrialization of the area.

Claude Monet, The Bridge at Argenteuil, 1874, oil on canvas, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.





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.

, , , ,