SAN FRANCISCO, CA -- Even when observing it at close distance at the "MONET: The Early Years Exhibition" at the Museum of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco, View near Rouelles looks more like a photograph than as an oil painting. The technique of OSCAR-CLAUDE MONET (1840-l926) its painter, was unique.
Unique is also this exhibition of more than 50 of MONET's paintings, because it is the first major US exhibition devoted to the initial phase of his career ( l858 to l872), and it included the first painting that MONET submitted it to The Exposition Municipal de la Ville de Havre in l858, when the was eighteen years old, View Near Rouelles.
To art lovers, View Near Rouelles is significant because it was the first of MONET’s paintings that the people saw. Because of it, examining the picture allows them not only to observe his precocious skills, but to become acquainted with his visual language, expressed in his selection of: Color, Perspective, Lighting and Darkness, Shapes, Movement and Texture when he first started painting. By comparing View Near Rouelles with MONET’s later paintings they can detect how the artist was modifying his early techniques, in later years, and even changing them.
To make this bottom part of the painting “feel” closer to the viewer, MONET may have used a very thin brush to be able to paint every small object in detail. In the painting we could distinguish the leaves, the bushes, the flowers growing around the pond, and even the turfs of grass. Still part of the bottom tier but further on, in the right side, there is a wider tree, painted in darkness, with pointillist strokes (using the brush dipped in paint to make small points on the painting) representing the leaves and the branches. MONET, may have painted this tree without much detail to indicate to the viewer that this tree is further away. He also may have used the fisherman, wearing a blue shirt and straw hat, sitting on the river bank to give size-perspective to his painting. The best effect of perspective in this picture, however, is in the pond where we see the reflection of the trees in the background, in the water.
The middle layer of the picture, was painted in a darker hue of green with the horizontal line of different heights trees at time blending with the green mountains. There are tree tall trees, close to us, but those standing in line are smaller, to give the eye the illusion than they are further away. The painting of these trees, is not detailed for a more realistic distance effect.
The third tier is actually the sky. It is light blue, but the perspective of distance is given by the tall slender trees far away, that seem to scrape the clouds. The clouds are white but not static, they were given “movement” by MONET, when he added lines of of slightly darker blue crossing them horizontally. The effect, gives the clouds the appearance to be drifting in the wind.
A different example of how MONET created perfect Perspective is seen below in one of the few paintings that MONET painted while living in Fontainebleau, France.
When we look at this painting we observe that the trees close to us are represented by a dark blotch of paint and only detailed at the at the edges. MONET may have used little detail in the left side of it, which he left in shadow, with the purpose to move our eyes directly to the “vanishing point” in the painting, which is the narrowest part of the Parisian sky, which we see as an arrow-shaped figure with a patch of blue to the right and shapeless grey clouds stretching over it.
In this picture, MONET also uses the effect of light and shadow perfectly, to create his perspective. By having contrast of darkness (on the left side) and light (on the right) we the viewer, are lead to look at the vanishing point . Interesting also in this picture is to observe the MONET's technique when he painted the trees’ shadows on our left, the tree trunk on our right, and the grass below.
LIGHTING AND SHADOWS
While two of the three boats are in the dark, If we look carefully at their masts with rolled sails, each one of them was given form with light and darkness. There are three boats in the picture but only one (the blue one in the center) has color, the other two are black, yet MONET mastery used the darkness for perspective. Another masterful painting effect is at the bottom part of the painting, where with vertical brush strokes he makes us “see” the water.
An analytic closer look, at the The Green Wave show us that he “created the illusion” of the waves movement by using thin parallel undulating brushes’ strokes using different hues of green and blue, to create the waves’ shapes. He created the foam effect, by actually splashing white paint under the hull of the boat and painting stretched blotches of it close behind it. The foam in the background is created grey paint with hundreds of pointillist white dots scattered over it. The hulls of the boats are created by light and darker brown strokes and the sails of the boats, by triangular shapes, white and brownish strokes. By leaning at different angles the boats give the viewer the impression that at the moment they are “sailing on rough sea”
Everything is this pictures was done fast, so with the exception of the child’s face, the rest of the picture, including the doll and the pillow, were painted with the bare minimum of strokes. As we observe this painting, done with very little detail, we move our imagination forward. We may be watching the start of the style of painting that MONET was going to adopt in the last years of his life.
With a selection of works gathered from the most important international collections –the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and other public and private collections worldwide, MONET: The Early Years Exhibition at the Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco, which includes many genres, is unique. It is the exhibition that all art lovers must visit.
THE LEGION OF HONOR MUSEUM (which is closed on Mondays) is located at l00 34th Avenue in San Francisco, 94121. For information and tickets you can call at (415) 750-3600.