• Tag Archives Claude Monet
  • Monday Muse- Monet’s Venice by Twilight

    Claude Monet, Saint-Georges majeur au crépuscule
    Claude Monet [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
    This week’s Monday Muse is Venice by Twilight, by Claude Monet.

    Monet was among the leaders of the art movement known as impressionism.  This art movement used visible brush strokes, paint was applied quickly, from life, usually outdoors, or as artist’s like to say, “En Plein Air”.  As a movement, impressionism emphasized fleeting moments, trying to quickly and accurately capture the effects of light before it changed.

    Impressionists often painted with a loose style, from a distance, their work would look very realistic and accurate, however up close, edges lost their definition and sharpness as one realized that the painting was made from many bold, visible brush strokes.

    The idea was to paint what the first impression on the eyes were, before a recognizable object could be made out.  Monet himself described it this way,  ”When you go out to paint, try to forget what objects you have before you, a tree, a house, a field or whatever merely think here is a little square of blue, here an oblong of pink, here a streak of yellow, and paint it just as it looks to you, the exact color and shape, until it gives you your own naïve impression of the scene before you”.

    Monet painted for years, and many of his works show much detail even though they are rendered in the style of impressionism. However, this particular painting does not show a lot of detail.  The brush strokes are larger, the image appears “fuzzier”, the colors are glorious as the deep blue is complemented so beautifully with the bright yellows and oranges.  The looser “feel” to this painting is most likely due to the fact that by then, (sometime between 1908-1912) Monet was suffering from cataracts, so what he actually saw, probably looked very much like what he displayed on his canvas.

    To me, it is quite inspiring to think that not only did his failing eyesight not hinder his artistic pursuit, but very well may have enhanced the results he achieved.  His failing vision gave him a unique view, which he shared with others.

    Monet's failing eyesight didn't hinder his artistic pursuits, it gave him a unique view... Click To Tweet
    There are at least two versions of this painting done by Monet, both are commonly known as Venice by Twilight, though the official title is “Saint-Georges majeur au crépuscule”.  Since both were painting by Monet, and both are considered equally valid, I’ve shown both in this post.


    Claude Monet - Twilight, Venice
    Claude Monet [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
    On the left side of the canvas you see the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore, with its bell tower silhouetted against the sunset.  San Giorgio Maggiore is a very small island, and the church takes up a large portion of it.  On the right you can faintly make out the domes of the della Salute, and the entrance of the Grand Canal.

    Here is a photograph which shows the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore, but from a slightly different vantage point than Monet used for his painting.

    Isola di s giorgio maggiore pano
    This photo separates the campanile and dome of San Giorgio Maggiore, as it is taken from nearer the Grand Canal than the place(s) where Monet’s dusk paintings were observed. By Mfield, Matthew Field, http://www.photography.mattfield.com (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
     For those unfamiliar with the geography of Venice, here is a map of Venice showing the location of the island in the Venetian lagoon, and the location of the Venetian lagoon in relation to the rest of Italy.

    The Venetian lagoon, I altered the image by adding the red location indicators and text. Image by NASA for the image, user:NordNordWest for the map [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
    The Venetian lagoon, I altered the image by adding the red location indicators and text. Attribution: NASA for the image, user:NordNordWest for the map [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

  • Monday Muse #1 View of Vetheuil in Summer, by Monet

    I’ve decided that each Monday I should post about a “Muse”.  For my purposes a Muse can be any thing or person that brings me inspiration.

    Today’s Muse is this painting, by Claude Monet:

    Monet - Ansicht von Vetheuil im Sommer
    Claude Monet [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
    Why did I pick this painting as my Monday Muse?

    Well, as my readers know, I find it very difficult to be satisfied with my renderings of clouds.  I have produced a few paintings where I was genuinely satisfied with the clouds.  However, those paintings are the exception, and I certainly seem unable to reproduce the results at will.  Its more a matter of “luck” than skill when I produce a sky I am truly happy with.  Sometimes grueling hard work gives me results that I find acceptable, but not really pleasing.  Well today, I was doing something I frequently do, browsing paintings online.  I started looking closely at many of the impressionists’ work, particularly their skies.  What I was seeing was encouraging to me.  These paintings are beautiful, but if I isolate the sky like this:

    Monet_-_Ansicht_von_Vetheuil_im_Sommer (2)

    I see brush strokes of blue, white, some yellow, a little that is kind of dirty yellow-gray…  What I don’t see is photograph-like realistic clouds.

    In fact, the closer you look, the less cloud like they become:
    Monet_-_Ansicht_von_Vetheuil_im_Sommer (3)

    Monet_-_Ansicht_von_Vetheuil_im_Sommer (4)


    To me this is a wonderful encouragement, because the overall picture is amazing, even the sky is amazing.  No person knowledgeable about art would say that Monet didn’t know how to paint.  Yet when I look at the sky closely I realize that if I had done it myself, I would not have been satisfied.  It is showing me that perhaps I need to step back and look at my paintings from further back.  It’s okay for them to not look like photographs.  The are PAINTINGS.  I am my own worst critic of course, because when i saw this, at first I wasn’t thinking anything negative, I was admiring the beauty of the painting.  The reason I looked closer at the sky was to see how he did it, and that’s when I realized that I would not have liked it if I did it, but I loved it when Monet did it.

    Now does that mean that I will stop trying to improve my skies?  No.  It does mean though that I can stop stressing every time I fail to make it look exactly like what I see.  I don’t necessarily have overwork my sky to the point of frustration, it is OKAY to put in brushstrokes that give the impression of clouds, especially when the sky isn’t the central point of the painting, but merely a backdrop for the rest.

    I really don’t know why I didn’t grasp this concept before, after all, the artists I admire most are Impressionists and Post-Impressionists, neither of which are particularly preoccupied with Photorealism in their paintings.  In fact, one of my frustrations with other aspects of paintings is that I find it difficult to loosen up enough, and yet with clouds, I was refusing to loosen up.  I was trying so much to control every aspect and get the EXACT image held in my mind.