Impressionists or Peeping Toms?

Impressionists or Peeping Toms? 
Paris During the Last Half of the 19th Century 
(the italicized portions, in outline form, are directly quoted from
1839           Daguerreotype presented
1848           Communist Manifesto
1848-52     Revolution in Europe
1859           Charles Darwin publishes Origin of Species
1863            Salon of Refusals
1861-65     American Civil War
1891           First movie camera patented
1884           1st Salon des Artistes Independants (Salon of Independents)
1886           8th and last Impressionist exhibition
1900           Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams
1903           First flight of the Wright brothers
1905-15     Albert Einstein's Theory of Relativity
1914-18     World War I

DEGAS, Edgar At the Ballet, or Woman with a Fan 1883-1885 
Pastel 26"x20" Philadelphia Museum of Art Philadelphia, PA  USA
Form: This is a pastel painting.  Although called a painting, in essence it is really a combination of drawing and painting.  Degas first made a watercolor painting on paper as his base.  He then took the dry medium of pastel and applied it on top of the dried watercolor.According to the Brittanica,
Pastel is a dry drawing medium executed with fragile, finger-size sticks. These drawing crayons, called pastels, are made of powdered pigments combined with a minimum of nongreasy binder, usually gum tragacanth or, from the mid-20th century, methyl cellulose. Made in a wide range of colour values, the darkest in each hue consists of pure pigment and binder, the others having varying admixtures of inert whites. Once the colours are applied to paper, they appear fresh and bright. Because they do not change in colour value, the final effect can be seen immediately. Pastel remains on the surface of the paper and thus can be easily obliterated unless protected by glass or a fixative spray of glue size or gum solution. Fixatives, however, have a disadvantage in that they tend to change the tone and flatten the grain of pastel drawings. When pastel is applied in short strokes or linearly, it is usually classed as drawing; when it is rubbed, smeared, and blended to achieve painterly effects, it is often regarded as a painting medium. The latter technique was principally used until the late 19th century, when the linear method came to be preferred. Special papers for pastel have been made since the 18th century with widely varying textures, some like fine sandpaper, with a flocked or suedelike finish, prominently ribbed or strongly marked by the drying felts.

Even though Degas used pastel for  At the Ballet the paintings color is still intense.  Degas uses is optical mixing by laying on slashes of pure primary color one on top the other which he does not blend.  As the viewer moves away from the image, the eye, naturally blurs these colors together and this creates a mixture.  The use of eye to blend colors rather than mixing on the surface is called optical mixing.
Degas also used color and color temperature to guide his viewer's eye.  The woman in the right side of the composition is the main focus. She is wearing a bright yellow/orange costume which causes her to become the main focus in he work. Warm colors, such as orange, yellow, and red, tend to leap forward in a painting, while the cooler colors, such as blue, green, or purple, recede into the background. It is evident that Degas was facile with color, as he had to know that this would cause this particular dancer to leap to the foreground, though she is not the one who is closest to the viewer. Instead, the dancer who is in the immediate foreground is cast in shadow, and creates a more convenient area of dark shadows to contrast the other figures bright highlights.
One of the most important points to remember about Degas work was the extraordinary use of cropping. His work resembled photographs, a new invention at the time, and it was rare for an artist to attempt such a composition. Paintings, traditionally, had always consisted of still lifes, portraits, or epic scenes where almost too much information was presented to the viewer. Degas was a pioneer because he was not afraid to use only the portion of a composition that interested him, and let the rest travel right off the edges of the page.
Degas also manipulates the color in an impressionistic manner.  If you look closely at the skin tones you can see the use of blues, purples and grays rather than the warm browns we anticipate.  (Remember Vermeer did this too.)   This is called using "non-local colors."  This use of "non-local colors" is one of the main tricks of the impressionists.
Iconography and Context:  Color is the main focus of Degas' work however, the genre scene and the idea of "spectacle" or voyeurism is also part of this.   Industrialization and the new found wealth it brought to Paris in the 19th century created more leisure time and allowed individuals more time and money.  This in turn created a boom in the performance and visual arts.  Ballet and theatre became a main form of entertainment and Degas is simply depicting a popular subject.  Nevertheless, he really doesn't seem to be commenting on the subject he chooses to paint.  He seems rather and objective viewer.  In this piece Degas wants us to feel as though we are seeing the ballet through his eyes.
Degas is one of the first modern artists to exploit pastel as a medium but pastel had been around for quite a while.  According to the Brittanica,

Pastels originated in northern Italy in the 16th century and were used by Jacopo Bassano and Frederico Barocci. The German artist Hans Holbein the Younger and the French artists Jean and François Clouet did pastel portraits in the same period. The greatest popularity of the medium came in the 18th century, when it was primarily used for portraiture. Rosalba Carriera (Italian), Jean-Baptiste Chardin, François Boucher, Maurice-Quentin de La Tour, Jean-Baptiste Perronneau (all French), Jean-Étienne Liotard (Swiss), and Anton Raphael Mengs (German) were among the major masters of pastel. Largely revived and revitalized in the last third of the 19th century by the French artist Edgar Degas.

Edgar Degas The Ballet Rehearsal 1876 oil on canvas 23x33
Form: Oil on canvas. Note the fact that his canvas is treated with more care for the smoothness of tonal transitions, the colors tend to mimic real life more accurately, and much less non-local color is being used. The cropping is still evident, but the angle is much more naturalistic, as one would expect from being an observer of the rehearsal in front of them.
Iconography and Context: According to
It is what we expect from Degas; young girls at practice or in the middle of, ballet.  Now, while this may seem like a wholesome scene to be constantly exploring, let's take a look into ballet's past, what it traditionally meant, and the role of ballet in society."The earliest precursors to ballets were lavish entertainment's given in the courts of Renaissance Italy. These elaborate spectacles, which united painting, poetry, music, and dancing, took place in large halls that were used also for banquets and balls. A dance performance given in 1489 actually was performed between the courses of a banquet, and the action was closely related to the menu: For instance, the story of Jason and the Golden Fleece preceded the roast lamb. The dancers based their performance on the social dances of the day."
Now, it must be pointed out as well that at this time, the only people allowed to dance were men, and men would often don wigs and make-up to fulfill the women's roles in these pieces when required. When women were allowed into the ballet, it was assumed that they were women of ill repute, to be placing themselves on stage for all to see.
The type of ballet that Degas is showing in most of his works s known as 'romantic ballet', which began in France in the 1800's "The ballet La Sylphide, first performed in Paris in 1832, introduced the period of the romantic ballet. Marie Taglioni danced the part of the Sylphide, a supernatural creature who is loved and inadvertently destroyed by a mortal man. The choreography, created by her father, Filippo Taglioni, exploited the use of toe dancing to emphasize his daughter's otherworldly lightness and insubstantiality.
La Sylphide inspired many changes in the ballets of the time-in theme, style, technique, and costume. Its successor,Giselle (1841), also contrasted the human and supernatural worlds, and in its second act the ghostly spirits called wilis wear the white tutu popularized in La Sylphide. "  Or, to put it more succinctly, it was an exploitation of the female body and shape, a forum where it could be emphasized in the harsh moral atmosphere of the Victorian era. For a voyeur, such as Degas, it was the perfect medium n which he could fulfill his lascivious appetite for young girls.

Edgar Degas: Le Viol, 1868-69. National Gallery, Washington, D.C.
Form: This earlier work by Degas is much more clean, more classically executed than his later works. Even the composition is less dramatic an cropped. It feels like an Old Master work, with the use of chiaroscuro and tenebrism on the girl's night-dress.Iconography: The title of this painting, translated, means 'The Rape." Looking at he scene and trying to read into it, leaves one to wonder at the possibilities of meaning. The girl is bathed in light, looking disheveled and upset, while the man is standing stiffly in the shadows, looking ponderous or guilty. There's a open suitcase next to the bed clothing strewn carelessly on the foot of the bed, but the bed itself is still made, the man is still clothed. It has been interpreted to be no more than a domestic dispute, perhaps the wife is trying to leave the husband, accusing him of infidelity, and 'the rape' may mean a violation of their wedding vows. Whichever interpretation the viewer decides, it remains a psychologically uncomfortable work.


Pierre Auguste Renoir,
Luncheon of the Boating Party 1881
oil on canvas 4'x5'

Form: Impressionist oil painting, use of pastel colors and non-local colors, one of the best known paintings by Renoir. There is less of the extreme 'photo' cropping employed by Degas, but it is still evident. The picture plane is filled with figures in relaxed repose, and the brushstrokes are loose and quick. A notable element in this work is Renoir's depiction of the white cloth of the table cloth and the white of the men's "T" shirts.  Renoir depicts the light and play of shadow in this work as a relationship of cool to warm tones.  Where the light hits the front of the shirt or cloth, Renoir tints his white cloth with yellows and oranges. In the shadowed portions he adds blues and purples in to the whites.  Earlier painters would have painted the shadows as browns or grays.
Iconography: This image is about two things.  It is about the joy of seeing and depicting the passage of light and color across surfaces but it's also a genre scene that depicts the so called "good life."  Many Parisians had their leisure time liberated by industrialization and the renovations by Haussmann’s Paris allowed them to enjoy it.  As part of the renovations of Paris a series of parks with lakes and cafes became popular hang outs.
"Renoir's Luncheon of the Boating Party not only conveys the light-hearted leisurely mood of the Maison Fournaise, but also reflects the character of mid- to late nineteenth century French social structure. The restaurant welcomed customers of many classes including bourgeois businessmen, society women, artists (Renoir and Caillebotte), actresses, writers (Guy de Maupassant), critics and, with the new, shorter work week--a result of the industrial revolution--seamstresses and shop girls.
Context according to

This diverse group embodied a new, modern Parisian society that accepted, as it continued to develop and advanced the French Revolution's promise of  liberté, egalité, fraternité. With a masterful use of gesture and expression, Renoir painted youthful, idealized portraits of his friends and colleagues who frequented the Maison Fournaise. In the background and wearing a top hat, the wealthy amateur art historian, collector, and editor of the Gazette des Beaux-Arts, Charles Ephrussi (no. 8) speaks with a younger man wearing a more casual brown coat and cap who may be Jules Laforgue (no. 5), the poet, critic, and personal secretary to Ephrussi. In the center, the actress Ellen Andrée (no. 6) drinks  from a glass, while seated across from her and dressed in a brown bowler hat, Baron Raoul Barbier (no. 4), a bon vivant and former mayor of colonial Saigon, faces the smiling woman leaning on the railing thought to be Alphonsine Fournaise (no. 3), the daughter of the proprietor. Wearing traditional straw boaters' hats, both she, and her brother, Alphonse Fournaise Jr. (no. 2), who was responsible for the boat rentals and stands at the far left of the composition, are placed within, but at the edge, of the party. Also sporting boaters' hats are the artist Paul Lhote (no. 12) and the bureaucrat Eugène Pierre Lestringez  (no. 11). These close friends of Renoir, who often modeled for his paintings, seem to be flirting with the fashionably dressed, famous actress Jeanne Samary (no. 13) in the upper right-hand corner. Lhote is not the only artist represented in Luncheon of the Boating Party; Renoir also included a youthful portrait of his fellow artist, close friend and wealthy patron, Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1894) (no. 9), who sits backwards  in his chair in the right foreground and is grouped with the actress Angèle (no. 7) and the Italian journalist Maggiolo (no. 10). Caillebotte, an avid boatman and sailor who painted many images of these activities, is portrayed in a white boater's shirt and flat-topped straw boater's hat. Caillebotte gazes across the table at a young woman, affectionately cooing at her dog, who is Aline Charigot (no. 1), the young seamstress Renoir had recently met and would later marry."
"Pierre-Auguste Renoir was born in Limoges on February 25, 1841. His father  was a tailor and his mother a dressmaker. When Renoir was three, the family moved to Paris where he grew up and lived most of his life. From 1854 to 1858, Renoir was apprenticed to a decorator of porcelain. He also studied drawing in the evenings and, from 1864, received permission to paint copies in  the Louvre. In 1860-61, Renoir began his formal art training, studying in the studio of Charles Gleyre and entering the Ecole des Beaux-Arts (School of Fine Arts) in 1862. At the art school, Renoir formed friendships with Claude Monet (1840-1926), Frédéric Bazille (1841-1870), and Alfred Sisley (1839-1899). The four artists,who had painted together outdoors during their student years, later were founding members of the movement that became known as Impressionism."
Pierre Auguste Renoir. Moulin de la Galette. 1876, 51"x69"
Form: Another Impressionist genre scene. Renoir has captured the effect of sunlight dappling the revelers through the tree leaves, effectively creating the feeling of an airy, outdoor party. He has stayed away from intense colors and striking contrast, instead using the pastel hues and non-local colors which the Impressionists were best known for.Iconography: "Renoir delighted in `the people's Paris', of which the Moulin de la Galette near the top of Montmartre was a characteristic place of entertainment, and his picture of the Sunday afternoon dance in its acacia-shaded courtyard is one of his happiest compositions. In
still-rural Montmartre, the Moulin, called `de la Galette' from the pancake which was its speciality, had a local clientèle, especially of working girls and their young men together with a sprinkling of artists who, as Renoir did, enjoyed the spectacle and also found unprofessional models. The dapple of light is an Impressionist feature but Renoir after his bout of plein-air landscape at Argenteuil seems especially to have welcomed the opportunity to make human beings, and especially women, the main components of picture. As Manet had done in La Musique aux Tuileries he introduced a number of portraits.  The girl in the striped dress in the middle foreground (as charming of any of Watteau's court ladies) was said to be Estelle, the sister of Renoir's model, Jeanne. Another of Renoir's models, Margot, is seen to the left dancing with the Cuban painter, Cardenas. At the foreground table at the right are the artist's friends, Frank Lamy, Norbert Goeneutte and Georges Rivière who in the short-lived publication L'Impressionniste extolled the Moulin de la Galette as a page of history, a precious monument of Parisian life depicted with rigorous exactness. Nobody before him had thought of capturing some aspect of daily life in a canvas of such large dimensions."
Context: According to the
"Renoir painted two other versions of the subject, a small sketch now in the Ordrupgard Museum, near Copenhagen and a painting smaller than the Louvre version in the John Hay Whitney collection. It is a matter of some doubt whether the latter or the Louvre version was painted on the spot. Rivière refers to a large canvas being transported to the scene though it would seem obvious thatso complete a work as the picture in the Louvre would in any case have been finished in the studio."

An element of art which has three properties.
  • Hue, which is the name of a color. For example,  red, yellow, blue.
  • Value, which refers to the lightness or darkness of a color.
  • Intensity, which refers to the brightness and purity of a color.  For example, bright red or dull red.

Hue refers to the name of a color.  Eg.  Red, blue, and purple.

Value in Color
When describing a hue, value refers to its lightness or darkness.  Value changes are often obtained by adding black or white to a hue.

It is not always enough to know the hue of a color, since a color has many different shades.Intensity is used to describe the purity of a color.    When a hue is strong, it is said to be high in intensity.  When a color is faint, dull and gray, it is said to be low in intensity.
Intensities of Green

 Mary Cassatt and Edgar Degas 

Mary Cassatt, Baby's First Caress 1891.
pastel on paper
Form: Pastel. Cassatt was very adept at the use of pastel and blending of color. Notice the symmetrical composition and analogous color scheme. You can find a lot of blue and green in the shadows of the skin, as well as in the shadows o the white dress. This work is very reminiscent of a renaissance Mary with Christ-child. Whether that is done on purpose is difficult to say.Iconography: Mary Cassatt had a recurring theme of mothers and children in most of her work. At a time when the male gaze still had quite a stronghold on the painting world, Cassatt was busy showing motherhood and womanhood in a more gentle, less sexually tense way. She was also a close acquaintance of Degas, and he taught her much about painting and pastels, but she retained her own style and way of interpreting the world. While this work is smoothly executed and worked out, it is also very gestural. there is a lot of movement to be found in the the body of the small child, and even in the way in which the mother inclines her head.
Context: Cassatt was unique, not because she was an extraordinarily talented artist, but because she was a woman in a genre that, at that time, was very closed to the female gender. It must be also be remembered that it was not just the art world that was closed to women, but society as well. In the Victorian era, when Cassatt lived, women were not allowed out without an escort, they had to remain covered from chin to ankle, and anything that smacked of sexuality, even an uncovered table leg was frowned upon!


Cassatt, Mary. At the Opera.
1880. Oil on canvas. 32 x 26 in.
Boston: Museum of Fine Arts.
Form: Oil on canvas, using a warm, earth toned palette. The use of cropping is very much in line with Degas, and resembles a photograph. The picture plane is divided in half, with the woman being the center of he picture by virtue of being represented so prominently in the foreground, which also adds to the illusion of depth with how the rest of the audience is portrayed in the balcony seats. Iconography: Lets go back to the idea of the 'male gaze'. The first overt difference is the way in which Cassatt is presenting a night out at the opera, to how Degas would present it. Cassatt shows a woman, whom by her attire we can safely say is a widow, focused intently through her opera glasses at the scene on stage. Cassatt is showing this woman to be enthralled, interested, and intelligent. Degas, when showing an opera scene, focuses on the women as dancers, frivolous, young, and naive. He was the ultimate flaneur. But, look more closely at this work. As the young widow watches the opera, in the balcony across from her we see a man focusing his eyeglass on her! Though humorous, Cassatt is deftly pointing out the impropriety of such behavior while at the same time conceding that there is little that could be done or said about it, it was the males prerogative. Also, at this time, even though she was a widow, it was considered most improper for the woman to be out unescorted. A signal to the men, perhaps, that she was available according to the social rules of the time.
Context: According to, "Opera and theatre were popular subjects for the Impressionists, often treated by Degas and Renoir, but here Cassatt tries something different. She presents her subject in the role of viewer. A role generally taken on by the male. Analysis of this painting centers around notions of gazing and the spectator. Like Cassatt herself, this woman is clear sighted and determined. With the tools of sight in her hands, she immerses herself in the activity of looking. Veins straining in her arm, she is oblivious to the spectator, and to the man who gazes at her from the distant balcony. This painting can be compared to Renoirs Loge (1874)."


DEGAS,Edgar Morning Bath c1883
pastel on paper 27"X13"
Chicago,A.I. Impressionism 
Form: Pastel on paper, analogous color scheme. The composition is again reminiscent of photographs, note the cropping of the bed and curtain. It gives an almost uncomfortable and cramped feeling to the work, the way she is somewhat crammed into the corner. There is, again, a plethora of blues and greens, non-local colors being used for the skin tones. If you look at her hip and chest, the color is almost completely blue with a white highlight, a reflection of the colors from the drapes. Iconography: This is less about the bath and more about the naked lady! As we will see by comparing this to Cassatts' version of the morning bath, Degas was all about voyeurism. We can tell from the rumpled bedclothes that the woman has recently awoke from her nights' rest, we can assume that she is stepping into the bath in preparation for her day. The view is from the bed, as though the artist is taking the viewpoint of someone who is perhaps still in he bed and watching from across the room. the viewer cannot tell much about the woman, what her face looks like, her age, her emotions, her personality. But we are led to believe that that is not as important as the fact that she is, well,naked.
Context: Degas had a bit of a reputation as a misogynist. Not that he disliked women, per se, more that he held them in a lower regard than he held men. 

CASSATT, Mary The Bathc1882
o/c 39"x26"
Chicago,A.I. Impressionism
Form: Pastel, very lifelike palette, the skin tones are more earthy and contain much less non-local colors. The composition is central to the page, but it hold the viewers' interest because of the unique vantage point and angles it creates. Note the attention to detail in the patterns she has carefully rendered, on the wallpaper, rug, dress, pitcher and even the painted detail on the dresser.Iconography: Following the theme of mothers and children, this is one of Cassatts more well-recognized works. The point of the work is not voyeuristic so much as it is an intimate peek into the bond between a mother and child. Bathing here is for the sole purpose of cleanliness, the mother is gently bathing the girls toes as she looks on with interest. It is a life lesson, on he importance of keeping clean as well as a time of day where mother and daughter get to spend time with one another. There is no underlying wink-wink-nudge-nudge as we find with Degas Morning Bath. This, compared to the previous work, is a study of the innocence and purity of childhood.
Context: Again, Cassatt has taken one of the recurring themes of the time and shown it from a female viewpoint. 

Cassatt, The Letter, 1891
Form: Etching on paper. Etching can be a frustrating and time consuming process, and it also serves here to show the range of talent Cassat possessed. She has employed her knowledge of painting to create a balance composition with a believable depth to it, and was able to incorporate patterns throughout, both n the dress and the wallpaper, which is almost as time consuming to ink as the entire etching is to create!Iconography: Cassatt is deviating from the norm of showing women as objects or entertainers. Instead, she is showing them as they are, just people who are tethered to the same everyday mundane tasks as men. The look on this woman's face is one of disinterest, boredom. She has not written a scandalous, passion filled note to a secret lover. More likely she is sending out a letter to a relative, or an invitation to tea. In the Victorian era, this was just a part of household duty, and nothing to be overly excited about. Cassatt is taking the stance that not all women are unattainable, exotic, or devastatingly beautiful. Sometimes, they're just...boring.
Context:  "In the spring of 1890, Paris was dazzled by an exhibition of Japanese woodblock prints, which Cassatt visited repeatedly. She wrote to her fellow artist Berthe Morisot: "Seriously you must not miss [the show] . . . I dream of it and don't think of anything else but color on copper."  Inspired by the compositions, colors, and themes she had observed, Cassatt began her own group of color prints. Her series-like one by Kitagawa Utamaro, a Japanese master she admired-depicts typical moments in a woman's day."

Mary Cassatt Maternal Caress,
drypoint and aquatint in color,
14 7/16 x 10 9/16 inches
Terra Foundation for the Arts,
Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1994.5
Form: Aquatint, printmaking. Aquatint is a printmaking process by which a fine layer of rosin is put onto a copper plate, and then by whatever technique the artist chooses to employ, the amount of gradation and detail can be controlled by numerous exposures in the acid, or application of hard or soft ground. In this instance, she chose drypoint. It is a very symmetrical composition with a soft color palette and excellent use of patterns to create visual interest.Iconography: This looks like a Japanese woodcut. there can be no doubt as to her inspiration for his piece. Everything from the linework to the colors is reminiscent of the clean lines and kimono patterns found in a traditional Japanese wood block print. Cassatt, once again, is able to keep her theme of motherhood and genre scenes, but translate it masterfully onto a copper plate. The process may be time consuming, but it is a hundred times easier than attempting the same scene on a wood block.
Context: A traditional Japanese woodblock print bears the name of the master artist, who came up with the design. However, the carving itself is done by up to twenty different artisans, each highly skilled in that one particular area. For instance, there will be one artist who does only kimono patterns. The next who does only the face and hair, then on to the artist whose specialty is carving trees, and next one who does the waves. It explains why many woodcuts from different master-artists retain a certain uniformity, but also why they are so consistently clean. The soft pine used for wood carving is very delicate, and it is an extremely time-consuming process. There would be no way that any of the large scale carvings could be done by one person alone, and maintain its' high level of quality. (special thanks to Jimin Lee for this bit of information!)

Impressionism Monet
1839           Daguerreotype presented
1848           Communist Manifesto
1848-52     Revolution in Europe
1859           Charles Darwin publishes Origin of Species
1863            Salon of Refusals
1861-65     American Civil War
1891           First movie camera patented
1884           1st Salon des Artistes Independants (Salon of Independents)
1886           8th and last Impressionist exhibition
1900           Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams
1903           First flight of the Wright brothers
1905-15     Albert Einstein's Theory of Relativity
1914-18     World War I

MONET, Claude  Impression, Sunrise 1872 Paris, Marmottan
Iconography: The entire goal of impressionism was capture light in a moment of time. This work is trying to capture a moment in nature, where the light strikes the water. It also sparked the name for the movement, according to Stokstad, when a journalist wrote a scathing review of the work done by Monet and his contemporaries he used the title of it to label them all impressionists. They loved the idea and decided to keep that title and philosophy of painting. This work is different from what one would normally think of when picturing of an Impressionist work, it is not bright and filled with sunlight or exuberant scenes, but seems to invoke a sense of quiet, and peaceful reflection.
Context: The Impressionists were the 'rogue' artists of their time. Always rejected by the fashionable Salon of Paris, they would form their own shows and exhibit the work they deemed worthy.

Monet, Claude Rouen Cathedral 
(Dawn) 1894

Monet, Claude Rouen Cathedral 
(Dull Dawn) 1894

Monet, Claude Rouen Cathedral 
(Harmony in Blue) 1894

Monet, Claude Rouen Cathedral 
(Harmony in Full Sunlight)1894
Form: Impressionist paintings, views of the same cathedral done at different times of day. The palette changes to accommodate the shifting light. This is a perfect example of how extensive knowledge of color helps in the creation of a successful painting.One of the interesting things about these images is that almost every one of them expresses what's called an analogous color scheme.  An analogous color scheme is when every color in the painting has a common color mixed into it.  For instance, in the top two images, every color Monet used was mixed with some kind of blue.
The bottom left has orange as its analogous scheme while "Harmony in Full Sunlight" is a full spectrum inmage and the color scheme is not analogous.
Iconography: Monet stood outside this cathedral for days on end to capture it in the different light qualities of a passing day. It shows how facile Monet was in his use of color to accurately represent light and shadow. One can clearly identify what phase of day it is by his use of complementary and analogous color schemes. According to the Getty museum, "With Rouen cathedral the artist, for the first and only time, concentrated on another work of art—one whose permanent, enduring structure would suggest a texture analogous to his own brushstrokes. His task was hardly easy: to keep the views constant Monet worked from only three improvised studio spaces in the cathedral square, painting nine, and at the end, fourteen canvases per day as he struggled to translate light into paint. He chose to work in good weather, so that nothing  would obscure the clarity of light on the stone. Ultimately, Monet transcended his task, creating 30 views of Rouen cathedral, which even today convey the wondrous combination of permanence and mutability that Monet sought to capture as he observed the sun’s daily transformation of the church façade. Of the 30 views, Monet chose the best 20 for an exhibition in 1895; the Getty picture was number 13 in that show." (
Context: Keeping in mind that the goal of the Impressionists was to accurately paint light and capture a moment in time within that light, it can be said that this series of work represents what Impressionism is all about.

Claude Monet 1840-1926 Haystacks on a Foggy Morning1891 France Oil on canvas

Claude Monet 1840-1926
 Haystacks on a Foggy Morning1891
France Oil on canvas

Claude Monet 1840-1926
 Haystack at Sunrise Near Giverny 1891
France Oil on canvas
29 1/2 x 37 in Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Form: Series of oil paintings focusing on haystacks. Monet is using short quick brushstrokes of saturated color to capture the richness of the light as it hits the haystacks. Looking closely, observe the way in which he uses complementary colors for the shadowed areas. For example, if the brightest part of the haystack is represented with reds and yellows, the shadowed part will be represented with blues and purples. The two colors play off each other, when two complementary colors are next to each other, they make the color seem much more intense and pure.Iconography: According to the Getty Museum Website.

In the fall of 1890, Impressionist Claude Monet arranged to have the wheatstacks near his home left out over the winter. By the following summer he had painted them at least thirty times, at different times throughout the seasons.  Wheatstacks was Monet's first series and the first  in which he concentrated on a single subject, differentiating pictures only by color, touch, composition, and lighting and weather conditions.  He said, "For me a landscape hardly exists at all as a landscape, because its appearance is constantly changing; but it lives by virtue of its surroundings, the air and the light which vary continually."  After beginning outdoors, Monet reworked each  painting in his studio to create the color harmonies that unify each canvas. The pinks in the sky echo the snow's reflections, and the blues of the wheatstacks' shadows are found in the wintry light shining on the stacks, in the houses' roofs, and in the snowy earth. With raised, broken brushstrokes, Monet captured nuances of light and created a solid, geometric structure that prevents the surface from simply melting into blobs. The wheatstacks are solid forms, and, while the outlying houses are indecipherable close-up, they are clear from a distance."
( Monet is one of the best known artists form the Impressionist era. He was patient about hs work and pursued his goal of capturing light with a single-minded intensity, "I know that to really paint the sea it has to be seen every day at any hour and from the same spot to know its life at this very spot ; that's why I'm repeating the same subjects up to four and even six times." Claude Monet "Je suis dans un pays superbe de sauvagerie, un amoncellement de rocher terrible et une mer invraisemblable de couleurs." Claude Monet 

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