The 10 Most Famous Artworks of Claude Monet
This includes Water Lilies Nymphéas, Impression Sunrise, and the Rouen Cathedral Series...
Oscar-Claude Monet (14 November 1840 – 5 December 1926) was a French painter and founder of impressionist painting who is seen as a key precursor to modernism, especially in his attempts to paint nature as he perceived it. During his long career, he was the most consistent and prolific practitioner of impressionism’s philosophy of expressing one’s perceptions before nature, especially as applied to plein air (outdoor) landscape painting. The term “Impressionism” is derived from the title of his painting Impression, soleil levant, exhibited in the 1874 Salon des Refusés (“exhibition of rejects”) initiated by Monet and his associates as an alternative to the Salon.
His ambition to documenting the French countryside led to a method of painting the same scene many times so as to capture the changing of light and passing of the seasons. Among the best known examples are his series of haystacks (1890–91), paintings of the Rouen Cathedral (1894) and the paintings of water lilies in his garden in Giverny that occupied him continuously for the last 20 years of his life.
Frequently exhibited and successful during his lifetime, his fame and popularity soared in the second half of the 20th century when he became one of the world’s most famous painters and a source of inspiration for burgeoning groups of artists.
niood lists the 10 most famous artworks of Claude Monet:
Year: 1896 – 1926
During the last two decades of his career, Monet devoted himself single-mindedly to painting the celebrated water-lily pond that he had designed and cultivated at his home in rural Giverny. In one extraordinary canvas after another, he captured the constantly shifting relationships among water, reflections, atmosphere, and light that transformed the pond’s surface with each passing moment. While these now-iconic paintings affirmed Monet’s long-held belief in the primacy of vision and experience, they did so in a pictorial language that was utterly novel and transformative even by the standards of the new century. The earlier paintings in the series—more delicate, ethereal, and restrained—met with immediate acclaim when Monet exhibited them in 1909. The Nymphéas canvases from 1914 onward, in contrast, were bigger, bolder, and much more personal—the very antithesis of the “call to order” that gripped the avant-garde during and after the First World War. They emerged as authoritative and visionary only two decades after Monet’s death, as American Abstract Expressionism triumphed on the international art scene.
This famous painting, Impression, Sunrise, was created from a scene in the port of Le Havre. Monet depicts a mist, which provides a hazy background to the piece set in the French harbor. The orange and yellow hues contrast brilliantly with the dark vessels, where little, if any detail is immediately visible to the audience. It is a striking and candid work that shows the smaller boats in the foreground almost being propelled along by the movement of the water. This has, once again, been achieved by separate brushstrokes that also show various colors “sparkling” on the sea.
Year: 1892 – 1893
Claude Monet (1840–1926) painted Normandy’s famous Rouen Cathedral over thirty times. Now scattered in private and public collections across the world from Tokyo to Los Angeles, each canvas captures the exterior of the cathedral at a different time of day and in different weather, tracking the shifting light across the stones of the medieval structure.
The majority of the series he painted from rooms near the cathedral’s west façade. Here you can see three of the paintings in the series, demonstrating the wide variety of colour and tone.
From these locations he would paint throughout the day, working for long hours in cramped surroundings on multiple canvases as the day progressed. He did not complete all the cathedral paintings in Rouen but continued to work in his spacious studio at Giverny after he had left Rouen, and into 1894. Monet had set himself a challenge, and found painting the cathedral difficult. He wrote to his wife, ‘I work like a mad man, I cannot stop thinking of anything else but the cathedral’.
Year: 1890 – 1891
Haystacks is a title of a series of impressionist paintings by Monet. The primary subjects of all of the paintings in the series are stacks of hay in the field after the harvest season. The title refers primarily to a twenty-five canvas series begun at the end of summer of 1890 and continued through the following spring, using that year’s harvest. Some use a broader definition of the title to refer to other paintings by Monet with this same theme. The series is known for its thematic use of repetition to show differences in perception of light across various times of day, seasons, and types of weather. The subjects were painted in fields near Monet’s home in Giverny, France.
Year: 1900 – 1905
Claude Monet painted a series of paintings of the Palace of Westminster, home of the British Parliament, during his stays in London between the years 1900-1905. The paintings have all the same size and viewpoint, Monet’s window at St Thomas’ Hospital overlooking the Thames. They are however painted at different times of the day and at different weather circumstances.
Here Monet is concentrating on the cumulative atmosphere created when architecture is placed near water and suffused with an eerie light. The Gothic spires of the Houses of Parliament have almost succeeded in piercing through the fog, but they are still reduced to a vague image that does not create a strong reflection in the water. The sun and its reflection cast a warm glow upon the scene and provide two focal points; one at the top of the painting and another at the bottom. The whole work adheres to Monet’s aesthetic principles of being pleasing to the eye.
During summer and fall 1891 Monet painted a series of views of poplars along the Epte River, at Giverny. Completion of the series was temporarily threatened when the village of Limetz, across the Epte from Giverny, decided to sell the trees at auction. Monet paid a local lumber merchant to ensure that the trees remained standing until he finished his work. He painted some of the pictures from the riverbank, and others, such as this one, from a boat specially outfitted with grooves to hold multiple canvases. Like the Haystacks, the Poplars were first exhibited as a series. Fifteen were shown in Paris in 1892.
Year: 1908 – 1912
San Giorgio Maggiore at Dusk is a prime example of Claude Monet. Also occasionally referred to as Sunset in Venice, was painted in the autumn of 1908 in Venice where Monet and his wife Alice had traveled by their own chauffeur-driven car. They stayed first at the Palazzo Barbaro and later at the Hotel Brittania. It was here that he created this masterpiece.
The period in which Monet created this riverscape or seascape painting was when he began losing his eyesight from gray cataracts. Much like other impressionists who were afflicted with pain or disease, suffering seemed to provoke them to do their greatest works: Vincent van Gogh created his magnum opus Starry Night while tormented by his psychological breakdown, Monet painted this masterpiece. The vibrant blue, yellow, and red colors were used by Monet to depict the sunset. Across the lagoon we see Venice, a famous island church in Venice, Italy.
Gustave Courbet had been on influence on Monet, and the older artist had visited him at his Paris studio while he was painting Luncheon on the Grass. On seeing that the giant work would never be completed in time for the 1866 Salon, Courbet urged Monet to paint something ‘quickly and well, in a single go,’ so he would have something to submit.
Accordingly, Monet painted Camille, a dazzling figurative painting of his lover Camille Doncieux, who would become the first Mrs Monet, The work was allegedly done in a mere four days and was well received by the critics, being described as, ‘the Parisian queen, the triumphant woman’ in the magazine L’Artiste. It represents the epitome of a fashionable, avant-garde woman.
Monet’s light, spontaneous brushwork creates splashes of colour. Mrs Monet’s veil is blown by the wind, as is her billowing white dress; the waving grass of the meadow is echoed by the green underside of her parasol. She is seen as if from below, with a strong upward perspective, against fluffy white clouds in an azure sky. A boy, the Monets’ seven-year-old son, is placed further away, concealed behind a rise in the ground and visible only from the waist up, creating a sense of depth.
The work is a genre painting of an everyday family scene, not a formal portrait. The work was painted outdoors, en plein air, and quickly, probably in a single period of a few hours. It measures 100×81 centimetres, Monet’s largest work in the 1870s, and is signed “Claude Monet 75” in the lower right corner.
La Grenouillère was a popular middle-class resort consisting of a spa, a boating establishment, and a floating café. Optimistically promoted as “Trouville-sur-Seine”, it was located on the Seine near Bougival, easily accessible by train from Paris and had just been favored with a visit by Emperor Napoleon III with his wife and son. Monet and Renoir both recognized in La Grenouillère an ideal subject for the images of leisure they hoped to sell.
As in his earlier picture of the Garden at Sainte-Adresse, Monet concentrated on repetitive elements – the ripples on the water, the foliage, the boats, the human figures – to weave a fabric of brushstrokes which, although emphatically brushstrokes, retain a strong descriptive quality.