Claude Monet is one of the well-known French painters who created a new understanding of painting and applied new social and cultural principles to painting. Monet represents a movement of impressionism; Critics admit that there is no doubt that Impressionism brought with it an enhancement of the tools and techniques available for painting. But this departure into the open air and the sunlight was an expensive undertaking for those who took part in it. Through it, Manet lost this position as a leading painter of the epoch, while Monet, Pissarro, and Sisley, each to a greater or less extent, sacrificed the opportunity of further developing their great gifts and skills.
Impressionism, by general consent, was a movement whose meaning can hardly be overestimated. As things stand today, though, some uncertainties have to be made. Critics recognize the genius of leaders and appreciate its masterpieces; viewers feel the sincerest admiration, certainly the most loving admiration for it. But impressionism henceforth belongs to history. Impressionism intervenes less and less in the issues at stake today; and even where it does intervene, it is no longer a greater power to be reckoned with than Impressionism is. In the family tree of ancestors of modern art — bearing in mind not the excellence of the works themselves, but only the simulative power of their control Impressionism, anyway Monet’s Impressionism, is about to oust Cubism from the advantaged position it has occupied up to now (Waldron 79). The uniqueness of Monet is that he combines the tolls of a previous age with the spirit of the epoch. Monet’s stock is on the rise, and it may be predicted that it will continue to rise, for in his last works Monet came to grips with one of the thorniest troubles of present-day art (Anholt 32).
Some critics admit that certain canvases by Monet are wrong-headed, extravagant, and insane, thus they bear his comforting signature. And how many of the younger critics and writers, on the opposite, would be singing the praises of these same canvases. The fashion today, in the studios of some of the younger painters, is all for a “textural” masterpiece. They forget that even before they were born Monet set a standard of dense, shimmering, luxuriant surface textures that has yet to be surpassed. All based, it is true, on a vision of “nature.” But Monet’s top-secret has not escaped the notice of some of the younger artists who came after him. By devious tolls and techniques, possibly, they too have been led to suspect its existence. The uniqueness of Monet’s style involves the rankling, unavowed, enigmatic aspirations. But while Monet forged into the unknown with an abiding sense of risk and insecurity, present-day painters are ranging over it and keenly recording the results of their explorations. Monet opened up the path which the new painters are now reconnoitering, step by step (Sagner 29). Monet created a new vision of images and colors used in painting.
The well-known paintings of Monet are The Woman in the Green (1966) Le dejeuner sur l’herbe, 1865-1866, Flowering Garden at Sainte-Adresse, 1866, Woman in a Garden, 1867, Woman with a Parasol, 1875, Vétheuil in the Fog, 1879, Street near Vétheuil in Winter, 1879, Lavacourt: Sunshine and Snow, 1879-1880. In the choice of Monet’s subjects, critics find the exposure of a cheerful, sensual temperament, enjoying the sunny side of life, youth, spring, and summer. In individual cases, he was not hard to please. To Monet, all young women were alike, just as all flowers and fruit are alike. They might, as he said to his friend, have “dirt on their behinds”, but that did not matter so long as their skins were susceptible to sunshine. Monet may have painted fifty or a hundred thousand pounds too much of human flesh in his life (and on account of the invariability of the types this is apt to get on our nerves, especially as not all the pictures are good), but he did not do this merely because he was aware that whoever possesses the “sentiment des tétons et des fesses” and makes good use of it in painting is a made man” (Sagner 76). Monet applied a unique vision of reality to art and created new techniques that allow him to combine subtle and gorgeous colors with simple settings and themes.
On the contrary, it was because he was obliged to go on painting like that. For him, it was a part of life, as necessary as breathing (Sagner 54). The beginning of this process of decay, which consists in the shifting of the point of balance from the sense determined by the artistic values to the organization of the surface, is likewise perceptible in the great work painted in 1881, the “Rowers”–a standard example of Impressionism and one of its most perfect realizations. The mastery of artistic means here displayed and the way in which the atmosphere of a period has been captured, make us forget the decline in the artistic values and principles of impressionism (Kelley 29).
Monet’s painting “Impression: Soleil Levant” (Impression, sunrise) perhaps induced Louis Leroy in 1874 to use the word “Impressionist ” for the first time, which marked a crucial issue in the history of the relationship between painting and a new dynamic concept of light as a manifestation of energy. Between the mid-1870s and March 17, 1905, when Einstein submitted his paper on the interaction of light and matter to the Annalen der Physik (Sagner 28), a great change of perspective concerning the ways in which the personal perception of objects is influenced by the action of light on the senses of the viewer had led to the increased awareness of the subtlety and complexity of visual experience. In the resulting debate between those who adhered to a basic “materialist” conception of light and those who continued to believe that the “impressions” of sensitive artists consisted of more than mere sequences or memories of sensations, Monet supported the latter group, and he did so in the name of the “primacy of the spiritual” embodied, as far as he was concerned, in the work of other painters (Waldron 76).
The special interest to me was that Monet’s conception of the new painting reflected, possibly instinctively, the notion of “energetics,” which shifted the emphasis in physics away from the centrality of matter to that of energy. Following this explanation, the light was a form of energy and could not, therefore, be adequately explained by the “materialist” science of the time. Critics place Monet at the center of this energetic current of thought, and she traces his particular affection for him to this current. Critics probably go too far in drawing a parallel between what Monet achieved in painting and what Proust was later to achieve in literature (Anholt 52). The words “mystery,” “obscure power,” and “divine” spring from an aesthetic ideology in which Art becomes a substitute for more conventional types of religious faith, a “residence for ideality” rather than a worldly form of production that combines mental and physical labor designed to satisfy human needs and change the quality of consciousness. The essay is a monument to the new exalted status that artistic creation was enjoying at the end of the nineteenth century when a wedge was driven between the worlds of material and aesthetic construction including settings of nature and women, sunshine, and simplicity waterlilies (Sagner 76).
The fact that aesthetic values could, in Monet’s philosophy, be translated into worldly terms, where “young men” like the one he introduces at the beginning of the essay constituted a link between art and practical life, saved him, in some measure, from the kind of “idolatry” against which he was to plead eloquently in his early writings. Monet’s philosophy and ideology of painting were able to accommodate an urgent concern with moral issues, which was one of the aspects of Monet’s thought that drew him to the art ideologist (Waldron 77). the most popular painting of the later period is The Cliffs at Etretat, 1885, Still-Life with Anemones, 1885, Water Lilies 1905.
One of the many things that attracted Monet was the latter’s belief that artists and poets were the instruments of a creative force vastly more powerful than they. This was the feeling that led Ruskin, in his Modern Painters and elsewhere, to relate “the mental chemistry by which the dream associates its materials” to the “mysterious” process by which creative geniuses receive “new images” that flow from essentially “involuntary remembrances” rather than willed recollections. This was obviously a feature of Monet’s thought that was congenial to Monet’s evolving conception of art and the artist, one that he was to place at the very center of his search for time past (Anholt 101).
Monet was quoted more than once as having said that he knew this work “by heart,” as a result of repeated impassioned readings. Art and nature are the bedrock of his faith in life and in his own eventual liberation from the snares of a superficial and false optimism based on worldly success, wealth, and social position. But much more intensely than his three counterparts, Monet is also attracted to the very society, the very glitter and elegance that so offend him. He is a person of decisively middle-class background who enjoys moving in aristocratic circles, and often thinks and expresses himself in a worshipful manner when in the company of that class’s most gracious and distinguished personalities. Indeed, his closest friend (Waldron 59).
Monet brought well-grounded principles of impressionism in literature, philosophy, and the arts to the task of investigating the ordinary events of daily life, but always from a transcendent point of view. His was a perspective that kept his mind’s eye focused on the eternal questions, while his intense and profound immersion in the life of the body and its sensations kept him attached to the physical universe. Monet’s vision was an idealist at its core, and rested on premises reaching back to Aristotle, to Saint Augustine, to seventeenth-century philosophy, to Kant, and to certain thinkers and poets of the impressionist movement in literature. Monet utilized this tradition for his own highly individualized purposes, striving to remain faithful to the principles and aims he set for himself when still a very young man. This is why a study of his early writings turns out to be so useful for a proper understanding of his later years (Anholt 198).
In sum, I learned that Monet was a unique painter who marked a new artistic period in art. Monet applied the universal laws developed in physics that so fascinated and enchanted him throughout his life and that he tried to integrate into his painting belong at once to the physical universe and to the spiritual forces that animate and inform human existence. Monet believed in the prevalent intellectual tendencies of his time, to give due consideration to his class affiliations and loyalties, and, finally, to connect him to those of his forebears and contemporaries from whom he derived motivation, an understanding of his painting and artistic techniques can also understand what is distinctive and unique in the totality of his art, involving his loftiest flights into the realm of the metaphysical and the magnificent.
Anholt, L. The Magical Garden of Claude Monet. Barron’s Educational Series; 1 edition, 2003.
Kelley, T. Claude Monet: Sunshine and Waterlilies. Grosset & Dunlap, 2001.
Sagner, K. Claude Monet – 1840-1926: a Feast for the Eyes. Taschen; 25th edition, 2006.
Waldron, A. First Impressions: Claude Monet. Harry N. Abrams, 2002.