What Monet did to get rolling isn’t all that different from what he did later on. But it is already powerful and raw in a way his later, more contemplative images aren’t always.
He did this image from memory obviously; otherwise he’d have no doubt drowned. And it’s powerful; you worry about the sailors and wonder about their fate.
He surely loved water and the artistic challenge it presented. Social status and labor were of far less interest than nature, but this was so for most of the Impressionist work.
Compare the “finished” work above with the sketch quality of the one below. He manages to depict a crowd of folk in the water with almost no delineation at all; and the water ripples have an amazing power.
Copies don’t go justice but Monet’s painting, Boats at the Port of Honfleur, can give you chills. Just dabs of paint tossed onto the canvas, these reflections of boats and trees are only that; but their weight, coloration, proportion and placement render the rightside up world of what floats perfectly in its upside down world of reflection. It’s an amazing work and possesses, and exudes, a vitality that the great later works of waterlilies and the like do not (despite their rhapsodic beauty). it has to be seen in person. It is a perfect painting.
Then there’s dad. Dad didn’t approve of son becoming a painter. The placard says this is a calm, respectful portrait of dad in the park, with no hint of the familial tension. Nope. Look, if the reproduction allows, at dad’s posture. Stiff as a rifle, jaw jutting forward, left leg almost levitating as he “reads.” Monet captures a tight, strict figure of black and white that contrasts sharply with the painting of his wife that follows.
This “shot” of his wife on a cold day outside the house, passing the glass panelled door, imbues her with a melancholy look that may relate to the enforced poverty his not yet successful painting career and his lack of paternal support imposed. A look of sadness, fleeting, perhaps, and yet the room is large, the glass clear, the day bright and Monet pays homage to the woman who endures what must be endured with and because of the very work that honors her.
Some paintings capture another maturing style in the early work: smoother, softer, with less obvious traces of brush strokes and paint dabs. This painting, done, I believe, in the Netherlands, is representative and feels “nice” to me in a more familiar and comfortable way. Yet the reflections–those perfect gestural reflections–are there to remind us of the degree to which Monet’s early work possessed a rawness and perfection, a magic and defiance that slowly gained recognition and acclaim, enough to erase the poverty of these early years.
Having only occasionally the lack of temerity, as now, required to reply / respond to such a valued discussion of this painter, and still shocked by these works, never before seen, I thought it worth expressing that, as I scanned these vibrant works, bracketed as they were by Bill’s so credible observations, I kept feeling that I was “inside M. Monet’s eye”, looking not “out” but “in”, that I was looking at his retina’s response to the world, and that he was telling me, by his marks, that he was a minimalist painter, putting down (on the canvas) ONLY those that, together, constructed the essence of the world-viewed and its effect upon that watcher and this, that the redundancy present in so much realist painting, needed to be removed, so that the essence might be exposed.
It goes without saying, but worth the words, that I am grateful to M. Monet et M. Nichols.
Thanks for your comment; you put it perfectly. He sees the essence in a magical way and you see how he sees with great lucidity.
This: ARMAND GUILLAUMIN | Moulins Ã vent sur le canal en Hollande
Is going (starting price) for $30-40,000 at Sotherbyâs.
And after your valued Monet piece, am I wrong to say thatâs a CRAZY price, and that this chap was both lazy and cynical; a poor-sighted copyist, despite the charm which one might suggest the amateur attempt contains?