Oscar-Claude Monet is widely considered the driving force behind the Impressionist movement. His paintings are still beloved and highly reproduced today. He was born on November 14, 1840 in Paris, France into a middle class family. His mother was a singer. His father wanted Claude to join him in the family grocery business, but Monet wanted to become an artist. He enrolled in art school at age 11 and was well known in Le Havre (in Normandy, where the family settled later) for his charcoal caricatures which he sold at the beach.
His 1872 painting, “Impression Sunrise” (which depicted sunlight dancing and shimmering on water), gave the name to the entire Impressionist movement. A critic coined the term in a harsh review of the painting, but theImpressionist painters took it up, refusing to be subject to the established art community. They stopped submitting their work to the Paris Salon (the only place for artists to show their art at the time) and created their own galleries after being rejected. They refused to let the critics deter them. And interestingly, these artists have continued to be popular over one hundred years later. (Consider that most people know who Monet and Degas are, but not many (average, non-art loving) people can tell you who Constable and Turner are.)
Monet felt that “…nature knows no black or white and nature knows no line” which led to beautifully colorful and energetic pieces of work. He began to think in terms of colors and shapes rather than scenes and objects.Impressionists strived to capture the many colors reflected in light, meticulously representing the colors seen in highlights and shadows. They used quick distinct brush strokes that give the painting a feel for a fleeting moment captured on canvas; rather than well blended, invisible strokes.
Monet painted several groups of landscapes and seascapes in what he considered to be campaigns to document the French countryside. These began to evolve into series of pictures in which he showed the same scene many times in order to capture the changing of light and the passing of the seasons. He was said to take several canvases out with him on a plein air (or outdoor) painting session and work quickly on one canvas until the light changes, then move to the next canvas to get the specific quality of light at different times of day.
At the beginning of May 1883, Monet and his large family rented, then bought a house and 2 acres on which he planted elaborate gardens. Here he painted and lived out the rest of his life. Creating many of his most famous series, such as his waterlilies. Monet died of lung cancer on 5 December 1926 at the age of 86
Today we will try out the impressionist style by painting a landscape. Think of one of your favorite places. Quickly sketch in the very biggest features in a basic way. No details! Here are a few tips that will help you out as you start to paint:
- Keep in mind the name of this movement! We are just giving an impression of a scene here. Don’t get too caught up in the details. Try squinting your eyes and looking around at different objects in the classroom; see how this blurs the details. Try to make your landscape similar. (Rather than individual leaves or flowers, you would use dabs of paint.)
- Apply the paint somewhat thickly (impasto), use bold strokes and don’t blend the colors completely.
- Use complementary colors (across from each other on the color wheel) to show the shadows and highlights.
- Mix color right on the canvas/board. Let them remain a bit separate, work quickly and loosely.
1. Start with a very loose watery wash from the bottom to the top of the sky. Add a bit more blue at the top so that the sky is lighter towards the horizon.
2. Now start to add in details in the background of the landscape, add a little more color to your brush to create a thicker mix than the sky. Use short strokes to apply the paint slightly more impasto (thicker) than the initial wash in we used for the sky.
These dabs of color help to move the viewers eye around the painting. Keep in mind the tips from above. Don’t get too caught up in the details….we are just giving an impression.