The River Scene Contact Information Claude Monet

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Small details revealing the master's hand

Let us proceed, and have a look at some small details revealing the master’s hand:


Look at the back of the chair. Try to see how the colour is heightened with red and white lake in the same brushstroke. We find the same in the water mirroring in front of ‘The studio boat’, ca 1874, Kröller-Muller Foundation, Otterlo. In fact, the whole water surface here is familiar to us, thinking of our ‘River Scene’, and the zig-zag reflection in the infra-red photo.

Interesting is also to notice how this canvas has been reworked. From the roof of the Studio boat, beneath the final layers, there are strong, yellow strokes, seen going upwards, and then turning off to the right.

This painting is also really worth a closer comparison with our Meadow scene: Compare the long row of black trunks at the shore in the Studio boat, with the M-s and the trunks in the background to the left, painted in warm yellow, where the sun shines on them, and in lilac/blue, where the trunks are in the shadow! Again, we observe another recurrent detail, please look at: ‘Meadow with haystacks near Giverny’, 1885, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, (W 995). There they are again, painted in lilac/blue, the same short trunks!

Click HERE for detail comparison of trees.


Meadow with haystacks near Giverny

The Meadow Scene

Jean Monet on his Horse-Tricycle

In the painting ‘Jean Monet on his Horse-Tricycle’, (W 238), the wheels are heightened in the same way as in the back of the chair. Remember also the dominant geometrical shape here – the circle, and the ‘looking-through-effect’.

Click HERE to see a comparison with our Garden scene.


Nymphéas roses

The table in 'Suzanne in the Garden'


Click HERE for a comparison of these two together

The oval shape of the table. The oval plays a very important part in the efforts of Monet, trying to construct different scenes in his paintings. Compare the water-lily-paintings, and the outline drawing of the oval leaves. A few quick strokes, often parallel, exactly like the oval of the table. The oval shape makes the experience of our mind apprehend the feeling of the depth dimension. Compare the ‘Nymphéas roses’, Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, Rome, (W 1507).

Listen to Virginia Spate:

” in the Nympheas of c 1896-7, depth is suggested by the stems of the lily buds and the darkening contours below the leaves, and recession (depth into the scene) is signalled by the foreshortening of the leaves; however, lacks the structuring tension introduced by the reflections. (The colour of time p 262). 

Déja vue? Yes we do have seen a similiar table before. Here it is, cut by the right edge in the same way and playing the same part in the composition.

Click HERE for a comparison.


Femme assise sur un Banc

Compare also the outline drawing of the legs of the table, (with a few, superior brushstrokes) with the umbrella in the painting: ‘Femme assise sur un Banc’, (W.343), 73,5x56, 1874, The Tate Gallery, London.

Please also note how the dress was cut by the edge of the canvas, and that it was created in an unpainted reserve. The main colour of the dress is the original colour of the canvas! And again we recognise the long, vigorous brush strokes of the dress!

Here we also find a most interesting technical detail. See how the parasol is painted – Monet starts with the ’body’ of the parasol the white/blue/grey mixture and then gives it the final shape with o few quick strokes, wet in wet, and the ’black´ mixture drags into the underlying colours. Please now have a close look at the table. The cloth is painted  first ’hanging in the air’ and secondly he creates, with a few quick strokes, the table using a ´black´ mixture - wet in wet – and we can see exactly the same effect when the ’black’ drags into the white/grey colour of the cloth.


Suzanne in the Garden (detail).

Click HERE for a comparison of these two together

Concerning the black colour, we know that Monet excluded this from his palette since black does not exist in nature. Anthea Callen in her ’the Art of Impressionism’ writes: ”Blacks made from subtractive mixture of bright, contrasting colours were widely used by the Impressionists, especially in the 1870s. The pigments most often employed were alizarin red, viridian green and French ultramarine – very saturated hues with high tinting strength. Furthermore, their transparency, even when combined, gives the resulting black a purity and jewel like brilliance that would be lost if opaque colours were introduced." (p.149). This is exactly what we find here: a mixture of red dark lack, blue and green, shining like jewels. Click on the picture to see a closeup.


Next another detail: take a close look and observe the way the cloth on the table was painted. A few, quick strokes - and there is what our eyes register as a cloth. Now please have a look at ‘Camille assise sur la Plage à Trouville’, 45x36, (W 159).

Study the brush strokes on her right arm sleeve. Here nearly exactly the same quick brush strokes appear – but now we have the ‘Impression’ of seeing reflections of the shining sun! Please also notice the shadow of the arm. See the same in the 'Meadow Scene'!

Camille assise sur la Plage à Trouville

Click for shadow comparison

The cloth on the table in Suzanne in the Garden.

Is there something else in this painting that we recognise from our ‘River Scene’?

Yes! The boat of the first state is now partly painted over with exactly the same colour, and in the same slovenly manner, as the black chair that you easily can see having been painted over to the right of Camille. Obviously the chair was one fence too much for our eyes.

Click HERE for comparison of overpainted areas.


Click HERE for a comparison of the painting technique.

Perhaps you have already seen that there is another part beside this in our River Scene, that is painted over in the same way, but now in light blue? It certainly seems a little odd, don´t you think? We simply have to remember that this painting is a sketch. But it is not hard to find other paintings with similar roughly overpainted places. In the two pochades from ’La Grenoullière’ the sky is changed and painted over in both of them. In the painting ’Garden house on the bank of the Zaan’ from 1871 we can see an overpainted part in the sky aswell.


The splashes of the sun on the gravel walk must also be mentioned, being so important for the feeling and the whole atmosphere. But they are more than this. They are concrete evidence for Monet’s everlasting struggle – trying to catch the light in his paintings. A key to perceive and understand the way Monet solves this problem, is to study the dualism of light and shadow.

Click for larger picture

In our painting, Suzanne is sitting in an open place, probably surrounded by bushes. A filtered light is coming from above, and we can see it reflected up at her face, from the white cloth she is working with! (Remember that the brown colour of the canvas of today is caused by old varnish that not yet has been possible to remove. We can only dream of what it once looked like, with the original light colour of the canvas!).

We also get a nice feeling of a warm summer afternoon. This is an effect indirect given by the warm yellow/red splashes on the ground - indicating that the sun is shining from behind us. These splashes are enough to make us feel, that this is one of those warm summer afternoons to be remembered.

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