The River Scene Contact Information Claude Monet

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Picture making

To the right in the River Scene we have two Landing-Stages. The small one in the bottom corner is the first and was painted before the bank, (the outline-drawing is lying on top). The bigger landing-stage has been painted very late, probably it is one of the last elements and certainly: ”a response to the demands of picture-making”, (John House: Nature into art. P.180).

The landing stage

In the chapter: ”Monet’s Practice in Finishing”, John House writes: ”The nature of Monet´s retouches can best be illustrated by the touches whose function is less literally represational; sometimes these involve giving an unexpected emphasis to a particular element in the composition, such as part of an area of foliage or open water, but sometimes they seem to have no starting point at all in observed reality, serving simply to establish the relationship between image and format, or as visual passages between elements in the painting. Two examples occur in ”Flower Beds at Vétheuil” ,(Museum of Fine Arts, Boston), :a few red touches , on the hillside just to the right of the upper area of flowers, link the pinks of the hillside to the stronger reds of the flowers; on the right of the painting a sequence of dark green dabs floats above the main block of flowers, with a particularly prominent one at the right edge, exactly half way up the margin. (!) Like the red touches these link foreground and background, but they also tie in the right margin, preventing the horizontal of the river from flowing uninterrupted out of the picture.The green accents belong, in form and colour, with the treatment of the main mass of flowers, but Monet has allowed them to float independent of it on the picture surface.”

John House continues giving examples how ”Monet added retouches of varied sorts near the margins of his paintings. ” whereafter he remarks: ”Accents such as these may all have had some basis in observed reality; but the emphasis he gave them was a response to the demands of picture-making”

Back to our Landing-Stage - we have just read that Monet added the green daub at: ”exactly half the way up the margin” – we are not very astonished finding that our Landing-Stage goes exactly half the way up the margin. It is not hard to understand, that without it, the composition would have lost it’s balance but it also: " ties in the right margin, preventing the horizontal of the river from flowing uninterrupted out of the picture.”

Click HERE for a comparison.

John House also illustrates Monet’s late retouches with the painting ’The Train in the Snow’, 1875, (W 356), Musée Marmottan. Here the fence to the right is added late. It certainly is a ’fence’ for our eyes. The signature and the dark daubs above serve the same purpose.

Please click HERE for a comparison.

In conclusion it certainly is obvious that our River Scene really is "The Missing Link". Now it is easy to follow the evolution of the ideas around the Boating Scenes. The River Scene has,  with good help from X-ray & IR, proven to be an archive of ideas, a real melting-pot for new experiments. 

We have already seen the result of all the efforts and ´the end´ of the link ’The Blue Barque’ and ’Young Women in a Boat’. These paintings make the link complete and we have really discovered the important part that is played by our River Scene – The Missing Link!

John House writes in his ‘Nature into art’:

“In all of them, the boat is placed asymmetrically, in some it is cut by the margin of the canvas, in a way that is reminiscent of the placement of boats in Japanese colour prints. The scale of the pictures suggests that they were planned as an ambitious commercial venture, but Monet was unable to complete any of them for sale at the time of their execution. Monet’s ambitions to treat his figures like landscapes suggests that the figure paintings were, at least in part, executed out of doors. But the size of the boating pictures, and the existence of rapid compositional drawings relating to several of them, suggest that they involved a more complex process than Monet’s landscapes.

Moreover, unpeopled canvases of the meadows exist which correspond closely to the settings of some of the meadows with figures of 1888, this suggests that, whatever his original intentions, all of these figure paintings may have involved some sort of additive, synthetic working process.”, (Chapter 2, p.37).

It is quite amusing to read what House is writing here, when we know that the boat was lying ’assymmetrically’ towards the bank in the first state. And how it is ’cut by the margin’ today. This is nothing but another evidence of the complexity of Monet´s Oeuvre, and not only a curiosity.

As we have seen, The River-Scene reveals a lot of other important ideas, such as the sunshine under the boat and the masterly created depth dimension.The sun-mingled willow-leaves. Even the sunshine through the arches of the bridge (in the first version) is foreboding a lot of forthcoming masterpieces. We also remember the fundamental formula of building the picture in the comparison with ’Effet d’ automne à Argenteuil’.

Click Here for a comparison of Effet d’ automne à Argenteuil together with River Scene

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