These two paintings by Claude Monet were created nearly three decades apart. Both images are high points of Monet’s artistic output, yet their differences are striking.
Between them they encapsulate the development of his painting style over time. So how did Monet go from one to the other?
Monet in 1868
The earlier work is a wonderfully vivid outdoor sketch of the river Seine, realised in such a way that light seems to emanate from the surface of the canvas.
The painting shows Monet’s future wife, Camille Doncieux, sitting on an island on the River Seine. She is positioned beneath two trees, looking out across the water towards the hamlet of Gloton. They are in the French countryside, some fifteen miles northwest of Paris, near to the town of Bennecourt.
There is a hint of narrative in the painting: in front of Camille is the rowing boat they used to travel across to the island. And over the water there is a track leading down to the jetty where they would have launched from, and behind the track, the clutch of houses of Gloton.
The couple stayed in Gloton in 1868 after the novelist Émile Zola recommended the rural village as an affordable and accessible retreat from the French capital. Claude and Camille were not yet married and their economic situation was precarious.
In making the painting, Monet followed the advice of one of his key mentors, Jean-Baptist Camille Corot, and executed the work by identifying sections of similar tonal value. Notice the water, for instance, and see how the reflections of land and sky have been painted using simple blocks of colour.
Look even more closely at the surface of the painting and you can see the way Monet has applied the paint in thick…