Oscar Claude Monet was a lightworker. He knew how to play with textures, colours, how to give you an impression of heat, of cold, of haze, he would make you feel the cold, see the steam or the haze. He made a point of painting the light above all which is why so many of his paintings are series.
Monet started painted in Normandy. He was born in Paris but the family moved to Le Havre when he was 5 years old. Monet who’s always like drawing started sketching more and more when his mother died. He sold one painting to a merchant who happened to know Eugene Boudin, a local painter who encouraged him to persevere and paint as much as possible. The rest is history.
St Lazare Train Station,1877.
Monet now lives in the city centre of Paris, very close to Saint Lazare the train station. He decides to follow something that Zola, a famous French writer said about once said: “our artists need to find poetry in train staying just as our father did in forests and rivers”.
Monet got the authorisation to paint inside the train station and started 7 versions of the train station: some feel warm, others are very foggy, some full of steam due to the departing trains…. And was actually satisfied with the result because he presented them to the Impressionists Salon in 1877.
Bain de la Grenouillere
Following a very cold winter in Paris Monet takes his wife Camille and their little boy for a swim in Bougival, by the “Ile des Impressionnistes”. Renoir was there too, painting the Dejeuner des Canotiers. This painting feels more like an Esquisse than a finished painting, who knows what Monet intentions were.
The war started a year later and the happy and frivolous behaviour of the Parisian disappeared.
How to get there: Take the RER A to Chatou, cross the bridge, you are there! There is a great museum on the island called the Fournaise museum. Go have a look!
Monet came to be in Rouen in 1892 to settle an inheritance case with his brother in Rouen. He takes a room at Number 31, Place de la cathédrale, just in front of the Cathedral (above the tourist office). He had a fantastic view of the Cathedral and he was just drawn to it decided to paint the cathedral because of the reflections created on the stone depending on the hour of the day.
His determinations to finish this series makes him stay much longer than he originally intended. He moved house and the views of the cathedral are painted from N81(now 47) Rue du Grand-Pont and he was still living there in 93. He finally went home to Giverny and finished them in the comfort of his workshop in Giverny. He finishes his series in 94. The cathedral is the series that made him a relatively wealthy man: He sold each of his 20 painting 12000frcs or 2000€ !
How to get there: Take the train from the Gare St Lazare in Paris.
Le Havre harbour
Monet’s first controversial painting is called Impression sunrise. It is very difficult to locate where the painted was done exactly but it was apparently done in the harbour and it barely took him a few hours to complete it. The idea was to best render the atmosphere in Le Havre’s harbour located on the opposite side of Honfleur, on the mouth of the river Seine.
Monet sent this painting to an exhibition organised in 1874 by a photographer called Nadar. He was required to give it a name for the Catalogue, Monet, who hadn’t really thought about it said: “Let’s call it Impression”. On April 28th 1874 Louis Leroy laughs at the painting and later writes an article for a newspaper called Le Charivari, What does this “impressionist” really means? And this is how the Impressionist movement got its name.
Where to see the painting: You can see it at the Musée Marmottan Monet in Paris.
Home to Monet’s house and gardens.I can’t end this list without talking about Monet’s house in Giverny. Now his house deserves a full post so I’ll write about it soon. In the meantime here is a picture of The Waterlillies taken at the Orangerie with the waterlilies.
How to get there: 45 mins from Gare St Lazare. You have trains every hour and a shuttle is available from the train station.
Where to see the paintings: The Orangerie is home to the impressive Waterlilies panels.
LONDON, Charing Cross bridge
Monet was fascinated by the fog you could see in London along the Thames river in the 1890s. From his bedroom, at the Savoy hotel, he painted 2 bridges: Waterloo and Charing Cross Bridge which actually represents the Hungerford Bridge, now a railway bridge and a pedestrian bridge linking the Embankment to the south bank.
What is interesting is the prescision on the paintings when it comes to the position of the sun and the density of the fog. The fog in Victorian times was mostly due to the pollution coming from the factories.
House of Parliament
Monet was very interested in the Parliament built by Barry and Pugin between 1838 and 1868 in the gothic revival style. At the time it was a very modern topic. He remembers the light from his first stay during the war in 1870/71 and he stays there in 1899,19000,1901 to work on 3 monuments: Waterloo Bridge, Charing Cross Bridge and the Parliament. The result is breathtaking! There are 19 paintings of the Parliaments known to the public. 2 are in France: One at the Orsay museum and the other one in Lille at the Palais des Beaux–arts (the fine art museum).