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The Lasting Impression of French Impressionism



Lighten Up!
Claude Monet<br/> French, 1840–1926<br/> <em>Grainstack, Sun in the Mist</em>, 1891<br/> Oil on canvas<br/> Gift of Ruth and Bruce Dayton, The Putnam Dana McMillan Fund, The John R. Van Derlip Fund, The William Hood Dunwoody Fund, The Ethel Morrison Van Derlip Fund, Alfred and Ingrid Lenz Harrison, and Mary Joann and James R. Jundt
  Claude Monet
French, 1840–1926
Grainstack, Sun in the Mist, 1891
Oil on canvas
Gift of Ruth and Bruce Dayton, The Putnam Dana McMillan Fund, The John R. Van Derlip Fund, The William Hood Dunwoody Fund, The Ethel Morrison Van Derlip Fund, Alfred and Ingrid Lenz Harrison, and Mary Joann and James R. Jundt

 

In addition to painterly brushwork, many of the Impressionists were known for using white and lighter colors, called a "lighter palette." They were also interested in new scientific theories about light, optics, and color, such as the idea that the actual color of an object is modified by the intensity of light surrounding it and the reflections and colors next to it. These artists studied light and paid careful attention to detail based on their direct observations.

This painting by Monet is one in a series of 25 canvases he painted from the summer of 1890 through the following spring. Monet worked en plein air (outdoors), in the fields near his home in Giverny, France. He painted grainstacks to show how light changes at different times of day, in different weather conditions, and throughout the seasons. Each day Monet worked on different canvases according to the time of day, and corresponding change in light. He might work on as many as 12 canvases in a day, each showing a slightly different aspect of light. This process would be repeated over days, weeks, and months. He then fine-tuned the paintings in his studio.

The idea of repeatedly painting a simple grainstack, a symbol of France's agricultural wealth, was revolutionary. Fifteen of the canvases were displayed together in a gallery in Paris in 1891. The grainstacks represented Monet's experiments in capturing the effects of light.


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1. Pierre Auguste Renoir's sketch of Venice, Italy, is an example of the lighter palette typical of the Impressionists. The rainbow colors of this rough sketch are bright, relatively unmixed, and complementary.
Pierre Auguste Renoir, French, 1841–1919. The Piazza San Marco, Venice, 1881. Oil on canvas. The John R. Van Derlip Fund.
2. Pierre Bonnard considered himself "the last of the Impressionists." The influences of Impressionism can be seen in the open brushstrokes, light, and intense color. Unlike most Impressionists, Bonnard drew or photographed his subjects, and later painted his canvases in the studio.
Pierre Bonnard, French, 1867–1947. Dining Room in the Country, 1913. Oil on canvas. The John R. Van Derlip Fund © 2009 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris.
3. Typical of the Impressionists, the shadows on the house in the foreground of this painting by Renoir are shown not by using thinned black paint, but by using colors, in this case a wash of blues, yellows, and browns.
Pierre Auguste Renoir, French, 1841–1919. Tamaris, France, c. 1885. Oil on canvas. Bequest of Mrs. Peter ffolliott.

 

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