Claude Monet Impression Sunrise is a celebrated impressionist oil painting.
Monet created this painting between 1872 and 1873, during a return trip to his childhood home near the Normandy coast. First exhibited at the infamous “Exhibition of the Impressionists” of April 1874, the painting is subtle yet powerful.
Located in Paris, this exhibition showcased the pioneering work of artists in the impressionist movement. Contributing artists included Edgar Degas, Camille Pissarro and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, forming the avant-garde of French creativity at the time. Together, the artists displayed over two hundred artworks. Amongst great public excitement (as well as some unsympathetic critical remarks), the event launched the careers of the participating artists.
Claude Monet’s Impression Sunrise inspired the name of the impressionist movement itself. Characterized by open compositions, small yet visible brush strokes, and an emphasis on the changing qualities of light, impressionist art rose to fame during the 1870s and 1880s. However, due to their rapid prominence, Claude Monet and other impressionist artists often faced severe critical opposition.
Monet claimed the title contained the word “impression” due to his purposefully hazy painting style. Rather than a direct, factual depiction of the port of Le Havre, it was simply his “impression” that day.
Indeed, Claude Monet’s Impression Sunrise significantly strayed away from the classical style favored by the French elite. While French art traditionally idealized beauty, balance, and symmetry, Monet’s loose brushstrokes suggested fleeting moments and emotion. In addition, the layering of colors creates a rich sense of depth, despite the imprecise details.
Sunrise and Sunset paintings have always been the subject matter of many famous artists.
Impression Sunrise is a view of the port of Le Havre in the Normandy region of North-western France. It is part of a series of six beautiful Monet paintings depicting the port at various times of the day. The Monet Sunrise painting became the artist’s most famous impression from the series.
Monet described the work simply as “something done out of my window at Le Havre”. He referenced the “sunlight in the mist with a few masts in the foreground” rising from ships frequenting the busy port. The painting shows two small rowing boats in the very foreground of the image while a red sun rises from the horizon.
In the middle distance, fishing boats and clipper ships sail past. Smoke from the packet boats and steamships forms flowing shapes in the background. On the right-hand side of the painting, evocative silhouettes of masts and chimneys complete the scene.
Monet painted during the Industrial Revolution that was sweeping across Europe and generating a large-scale transformation of the French countryside. To feature these industrial elements, Monet chose not to depict the houses on the left side of the jetty as they would have obscured much of the background.
Among Claude Monet's famous paintings, Impression Sunrise is surprisingly small (at just 48cm × 63cm). Unfortunately, its small size perhaps made it an easy target for thieves. The painting was stolen in 1985 and was only recovered and returned to the Musée Marmottan Monet (Paris) in 1990.
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