Claude Monet, Impression Sunrise

Claude Monet, Impression Sunrise was first presented at what would become known as the “Exhibition of the Impressionists” in Paris in April 1874. The painting is attributed to inspiring the name of the Impressionist movement. It illustrates the port of Le Havre in France, Monet home town. It is one of a series of paintings based on Le Havre painted about the same time. The series was exhibited at the “Exhibition of the Impressionists”. Some of the other artists who exhibited alongside Monet were Camille Pissarro, Alfred Sisley, Paul Cézanne, Berthe Morisot and Edgar Degas.

Date completed: 1872

Artist: Claude Monet

Periods: Impressionism

Location: Musée Marmottan Monet

Subject: Le Havre

Genres: Marine art

Art critic Louis Leroy wrote about the exhibition in the newspaper Le Charivari and used the term “Impressionism” to mock the loose and tranquil nature of the paintings. But, despite the anticipated criticism, the artists adopted the term as the name of the movement, Impressionism. Here is an extract from Leroy’s article, which takes the perspective of two sceptical viewers discussing Monet’s painting: “Impression I was certain of it. I was just telling myself that, since I was impressed, there had to be some impression in it — and what freedom, what ease of workmanship! A preliminary drawing for a wallpaper pattern is more finished than this seascape.”

Monet depicts a mist, in which a hazy background is set in French harbour of Le Havre. The orange and yellow hues in the sky contrast luminously with the dark tall ships, with not much detail, is proximately visible to the audience. It is a remarkable and candid work that shows the smaller boats in the foreground almost being thrust along by the movement of the water. This has been achieved by unconnected tonal brushstrokes that also show various colours “sparkling” on the sea.

From the 15th April to 15th May 1874 Monet and what became known as the impressionist exhibited their works. Of all those displayed there, this is probably the most famous picture, not so much because of any crucial status within Monet’s oeuvre, but rather for the criticism it attracted from the reviewers, which gave rise to the name of the movement. Most visitors were offended and even outraged over such “graffiti”. The focus of this painting is almost entirely on colour and light. The brushwork is loose, the detail is simple and the composition is fairly basic. But the use of colour to depict light is enough to make this painting work.

Most of the painting is made up of dull oranges, blues and greens, which form the backdrop for the dark green/blue boats and the vivid orange sunrise.

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