The River Scene Contact Information Claude Monet

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Water reflections revealed by the infra-red photo

Let us have a look at another photo, taken in infra-red light.

Click HERE to see larger pictures

With the infra-red light we are able to see through the upper layer of paint and see what is lying beneath. You can see the shape of the boat in its first position. Moreover, we have the black zigzag-shadow in the water - which we recently studied just like those we find in several other works, e.g. in the pochade: ‘La Grenoullière’ in the Metropolitan Museum. Here we see a similar mirroring in the water, from the boat to the far right, (in red – from the red gunwale).

La Grenoullière detail

Click HERE for closeup and comparison.

At the National Gallery, London, we have the other of the two similar paintings: ‘Bathers at La Grenouillère’.

Here we can easily see how Monet changed the positions of the boats. In the book ‘Art in the making – Impressionism’, Exhibition Catalogue, London 1990-1991, it is like music to read this: “Similarly, Monet did not arrive at the apparently instantaneous image of Bathers at La Grenouillère without significant revisions. Dried brush-strokes under the present surface and the evidence of the X-ray, show that he not only altered the arrangement of his composition, but probably also made a first rapid lay-in of boats with the canvas the other way up.

Click for Detail: altered positions of the boats

This seems to have been a false start and Monet soon turned his picture over to begin again, but even in this painting, the outlines of the boats were shifted several times as he worked. Perhaps he was responding to real alterations in the scene before him, as the boats were moved around. The red painted gunwales of boats in various different positions can be seen quite clearly below the present surface. (p.122-123). (For many exciting macro-photos, X-rays, etc, try to find this book: ISBN 0-300-05035-6).

Let’s have another look at the Infra-red photo. Besides the zigzag-reflection in the water there ought to be another reflection from the side of the boat. We know that the light was coming from the setting sun, shining from the upper right corner. It is a bit difficult to see – but it certainly is there – a smooth water reflection alongside the boat.

Please click HERE for a comparison.

The waterline running in dark is much easier to see, close to the boat as a deep shadow. A thin light heightening is also running parallell in the dark shadow. We have seen similar strokes in several paintings, indicating the breaking surface of the moving water. Monet was very close with details like these and the effect is obviuos – the boat is really lying there, floating in and on the water.

Please click HERE for some paintings with examples of reflections and water-lines.

Before closing this part about reflections on the water surface, you simply have to take a look at still another exciting detail. Look at the pole of the landing stage. Can you see it mirrored in front in the water below? In dark blue and greyish blue.

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