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  • Claude Monet
    Nov 14, 1840 - Dec 5, 1926
  • The Cliff Walk, Pourville - Claude Monet was a French painter, initiator, leader, and unswerving advocate of the Impressionist style. He is regarded as the archetypal Impressionist in that his devotion to the ideals of the movement was unwavering throughout his long career, and it is fitting that one of his pictures - Impression: Sunrise (Musée Marmottan, Paris; 1872) - gave the group his name.
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The Cliff Walk, Pourville
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  • The Cliff Walk, Pourville

  • Claude Monet
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  • 1882
    Oil on canvas
    26 1/8"x 32 7/16"
    The Art Institute of Chicago, United States.

    The Cliff Walk at Pourville is an 1882 painting by the French Impressionist painter Claude Monet. It currently resides at the Art Institute of Chicago. It is a landscape painting featuring two women atop a cliff above the sea.

    The canvas was inspired by an extended stay at Pourville in 1882. Monet settled in the village between February and mid-April, during which time he wrote to his future wife, Alice Hoschedé, "How beautiful the countryside is becoming, and what joy it would be for me to show you all its delightful nooks and crannies!" They returned in June of that year. The two young women standing atop the cliff may be Hoschedé's daughters, Marthe and Blanche; it has also been suggested that the figures represent Alice and Blanche, both of whom painted out of doors at that time.

    The various elements of the painting are unified through brushwork; short, crisp strokes were used to paint the grasses of the cliff, the women's drapery and the distant sea. A sense of movement suggested by painterly calligraphy was a property of Monet's work in the 1880s, and is here used to connote the effect of a summer wind upon figures, land, water, and clouds moving across the sky. During the painting process, Monet reduced the size of a rocky promontory at far right, to better balance the composition's proportions; however, it's also been noted that this secondary cliff was a late addition to the canvas, and was not part of the original design. An X-ray of the painting indicates that the artist originally painted a third figure into the grouping, then removed it.

    Describing similar works by the artist, art historian John House wrote, “His cliff tops rarely show a single sweep of terrain. Instead there are breaks in space; the eye progresses into depth by a succession of jumps; distance is expressed by planes overlapping each other and by atmospheric rather than linear perspective- by softening the focus and changes of color.” The sense of immediacy is heightened by the juxtapositions of the cliff and sea, the contrast between ground and openness.

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Other paintings by Claude Monet:

Printemps a Giverny 1886
Printemps a Giverny 1886
Water-Lily Pond, Evening (left panel)
Water-Lily Pond, Evening (left panel)
Roses in the Hoshede's Garden at Montregon
Roses in the Hoshede's Garden at Montregon
Corner of Water-Lily Pond
Corner of Water-Lily Pond
Claude MonetIn 1890 Monet had bought a strip of marshland across the road from his house and flower garden, through which flowed a tributary of the Epte. By diverting this stream, he began to construct a water-lily garden. Soon weeping willows, iris, and bamboo grew around a free-form pool, clusters of lily pads and blossoms floated on the quiet water, and a Japanese bridge closed the composition at one end. By 1900 this unique product of Monet's imagination (for his Impressionism had become more subjective) was in itself a major work of environmental art--an exotic lotus land within which he was to meditate and paint for more than 20 years. The first canvases of lilies, water, and the Japanese bridge were only about one yard square, but their unprecedented open composition, with the large blossoms and pads suspended as if in space, and the azure water in which clouds were reflected, implied an encompassing environment beyond the frame. This concept of embracing spatiality, new to the history of painting and only implicit in the first water-lily paintings, was expanded by 1925 into a cycle of huge murals to be installed in Paris in two 80-foot oval rooms in the Orangerie of the Tuileries. These were described in 1952 by the painter André Masson as "the Sistine Chapel of Impressionism." This crowning achievement of Monet's long, probing study of nature--his striving to render his impressions, as he said, "in the face of the most fugitive effects"--was not dedicated until after his death. The many large studies for the Orangerie murals, as well as other unprecedented and unique works painted in the water garden between 1916 and 1925, were almost unknown until the 1950s but are now distributed throughout the major private collections and museums of the world. Despite failing eyesight, Monet continued to paint almost until his death in 1926.