The River Scene Contact Information Claude Monet

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Boating adventures

We will soon learn a lot about Monet's ’Boating’ ideas. We are going to reveal a lot of exciting secrets. But at first we have to look at one of Monet´s favourites and perhaps the very beginning of the ’Boating adventures’.

It is also easy to see a strong relationship between our River Scene, (particularly the first state), and "On the bank of the Seine, Bennecourt", 1868, (W.110).

On the bank of the Seine, Bennecourt

Looking at this painting we shall again listen to Douglas Skeggs: “The light generated on the water is a masterpiece of observation. Monet has analyzed each colour in turn, dissecting the overall effect with the precision of a surgeon. Few artists before could claim to have stolen the afternoon light with such skill,..”,(River of Light, p.53).

This description by Skeggs is also brilliant: “In ‘On the bank of the Seine at Bennecourt’ there is a subtle alteration in focus, a shift of emphasis so slight, so seductive that we are scarcely aware of its insistence. Camille sits in the long grass gazing at the scene before her, engrossed in a daydream. She acts as a signpost in the composition, redirecting the focus of the painting. Instead of holding our attention, she deflects it towards the sun drenched village on the far shore. The dark screen leaves, the filtered light and the direction of her gaze all combine to thrust our interest away from the foreground into the whole area of the painting until we too, like her, become absorbed in the powdery light beyond”. This painting was not “dashed off” in the inspiration of an afternoon.  Monet built the painting up over a period of days, deliberating on the overall design, calculating and reworking effects of colour and brushwork.”, (Skeggs p.52). This can easily be seen e.g. the reworked part over Camille's lap.

The oar

For a funny little detail - take a close look at the boat, lying at the opposite shore. Do you see the little ‘streak’ – it is an oar! Click HERE for a close-up.

This little oar instinctively takes us back to our ‘River Scene’. And there it is, painted in a similar way, the oar. Perhaps we can say that we, in our minds, have the impression of this ‘quick streak’ being an oar!

Click for enlargement

Looking at our River Scene we can see how the oar vanishes down into the moving water - try and see how masterly it is painted! You can really see the flowing water, and the boat floating, with the sun shining into the water under it. This is very interesting indeed! Did you notice this? We do see the sun shining into the water under the boat, and then we have the sun reflected on the whole sheet of the water surface up to the bridge – in the same painting! See also how the shadow from the boat is falling towards us – created by painting over the water to the right of the boat and up on the riverbank. This can not have been painted by anyone else but – Claude Monet!

When we are on the look out for ‘more oars’ it is not far to seek. Look at ‘Bathing at la Grenouillère’, 1869, there they are - the same oars, lying in the boats, painted with the same ‘streaks’ as our oar!

Click HERE for a comparison of the oars.

Here we simply have to listen to Virginia Spate again: " the process of painting, during which Monet came to see reflection, shadow and sunlight sinking into the depths of the water, and to find ways of reconciling this kind of seeing into depth with the kind of seeing which slips across the reflective surface of the water.”

Click HERE for a comparison depth sense.

Interesting here is the discussion about when these boating paintings are executed: Only one is dated, 'Girls in a boat' – 1887. Since it is similar in conception and mood to 'In the norvégienne' and the ’Blue boat’ they may date from the same year. The three paintings can be distinguished from the ’Pink boat’ and ’Boating on the Epte’ in that they have a reflecting water surface, while the latter two show the depths of the water; (Spate Ch 4 note 89).

Perhaps 'The River Scene' is the first attempt by Monet to paint boats, cut in this ‘Japanese’ way? Perhaps we will have the answer in the future - if we can find out what all the figures mean, that are written on the backs of our paintings! More about this further on.

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