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  • Claude Monet
    Nov 14, 1840 - Dec 5, 1926
  • Monet's Garden at Argenteuil - 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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Monet's Garden at Argenteuil
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  • Monet's Garden at Argenteuil

  • Claude Monet
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  • 1873
    Oil on canvas
    Private collection.

    Claude Monet, the most famous of the Impressionist painters, spent some of his most productive and artistically important years living in Argenteuil, a village along the Seine River, northwest of Paris. Monet lived in Argenteuil from 1871 to 1878; this was a period that saw many Parisians visiting the rural town as an escape from the busy urban Paris. Monet wasn't the only painter who recognized the beauty of Argenteuil. Fellow painters like Auguste Renoir, Georges Braque, and Edouard Manet also painted scenes of Argenteuil.

    During his time in Argenteuil, Monet painted many scenes of the landscape, its water, and its people. In The Artist's Garden in Argenteuil, Monet shows a white French house, surrounded by trees, its view obstructed by flowers, including Dahlias, in full bloom. The sky is blue with clouds back lit by a bright sun. Monet painted the railway bridge in The Bridge at Argenteuil. He must have enjoyed this subject matter so much he painted it four times. In Monet's The Bridge at Argenteuil he shows the arches supporting the bridge to the right, receding into the distance. In the bridge paintings, the sky is blue, but in varying shades, depending on the painting. To the viewer's left, Monet painted a boat, floating leisurely in the calm water.

    For Monet, Argenteuil was a place to relax and enjoy life at a slower pace than in Paris or London. His paintings show that attitude. In 1875, Claude Monet painted Argenteuil, a more complex composition still showing the slower life that a small town can celebrate. As in many paintings he did of Argenteuil, Monet shows a water scene. The sky is blue, yet dusted with white clouds. In the background there are tall trees with the hint of trees farther beyond the water. The foreground is filled with the green of water plants. To the left, he shows a couple out for a stroll – a favorite activity of those spending a day in Argenteuil. And in the center, the focus of the composition, he shows two red boats, their sails down, and anchors dropped.

    Monet's Argenteuil has a lot in common with many other paintings he did. Throughout his career, Monet was experimenting with the effects of light on how a viewer perceives color. In Argenteuil, Monet continues that with the purple hues in the water and the shimmering light in the sky. Here in Argenteuil, however, Monet is perhaps more focused on showing the relationships color can have with each other. The rust red of the boats and their reflections contrast against the blue of the water and sky and the green of the plants surrounding them.

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Other paintings by Claude Monet:

The Old Tree, Sunlight on the Petite Creuse
The Old Tree, Sunlight on the Petite Creuse
Pathway in Monet's Garden at Giverny 1902
Pathway in Monet's Garden at Giverny 1902
Sailboat at Le Petit-Gennevilliers
Sailboat at Le Petit-Gennevilliers
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.