The River Scene Contact Information Claude Monet

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Stepping stones into space

The right wing of our ‘River Scene consists of a 'landing stage' that together with the trunk of the willow hinder our eyes here.

The cut trunk of a tree or a pole are playing an important part in the oeuvre of Claude Monet. Look at the most famous paintings: ‘Les Grandes Decorations’, Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris.

Les grandes Decorations

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Watch the sun glitter in the water and the oar preventing our eyes from slipping out over the left edge of the painting. The focus of the eye remains on Suzanne in full harmony. Perhaps the last correction, done to receive this impression, is the centre part of the willow leaves, which was painted over with a large chestnut leaf.

The River Scene

The middle ground is built up by the water surface, with reflections and glittering, mirroring the blue sky. This way of painting the water surface also creates a depth perspective. John House writes: “…with only the ripples to act as visual stepping stones into space.” (‘Nature into art’ chapter 3, p.53 ).

Multicoloured, warm, horizontal brushstrokes keep the composition together. Look at the background, with the bridge with the vaults, and the bushes in front, reflected on the open sheet of water.

House again: “ Monet’s problem was to find a way, whilst preserving this spatial differentiation, of weaving foreground and background together into a single pictorial effect.” (‘Nature into art’ p.72).

See also how the bright sun light effect is intensified by the creamy strokes on top of the bridge in the ‘River Scene’! Together with the similar strokes in front they strengthen the composition. We find the same technique in the painting: ‘Effet d´automne à Argenteuil’, 1873, (W 290). The author of the book ‘The way the great masters paint’ writes: ”The horizontal, light blue brushstrokes create a single, linear indication in the motif, and keeps the composition together. The creamy brushstrokes in the buildings create a feeling of heat and vibrating sunshine. In its extreme simplification, it is remarkably realistic.”

Effet d´automne à Argenteuil

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Furthermore this is also the painting, about which House wrote: ”with only the ripples to act as visual stepping stones into space.” 

Bridge at the Moulin de Limetz

The bridge with the arches we recognise from e.g. ‘Bridge at the Moulin de Limetz’ (W.1210).

Doing a quick survey over motifs painted by Claude Monet, we will find that the arch is one of the most dominating architectural elements used by the artist. We find it in bridges like here. In the facades of the Cathedrals, and the series of the Charing Cross & Waterloo Bridges, The Villas in Bordighera, The Palazzi, and, of course, the Japanese Footbridge in Giverny, among others.

The Artist’s passion for the arch is obvious. For Monet it is of course a grateful motif, with it’s immanent possibilities. Mysterious, symbolic, architectural, and adapted to create a natural depth perspective - already in our minds.

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