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.
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.
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.