Inspired in part by Édouard Manet, Monet departed from the clear depiction of forms and linear perspective, which were prescribed by the established art of the time, and experimented with loose handling, bold color, and strikingly unconventional compositions. The emphasis in his pictures shifted from representing figures to depicting different qualities of light and atmosphere in each scene.
In his later years, Monet also became increasingly sensitive to the decorative qualities of color and form. He began to apply paint in smaller strokes, building it up in broad fields of color, and exploring the possibilities of a decorative paint surface of harmonies and contrasts of color. The effects that he achieved, particularly in the series paintings of the 1890s, represent a remarkable advance towards abstraction and towards a modern painting focused purely on surface effects.
An inspiration and a leader among the Impressionists, he was crucial in attracting Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley, Édouard Manet and Camille Pissarro to work alongside each other in and around Paris. He was also important in establishing the exhibition society that would showcase the group’s work between 1874 and 1886.
“Garden at Sainte-Adresse” by Claude Monet
“Garden at Sainte-Adresse” by Claude Monet was painted in the summer of 1867 at the resort town of Sainte-Adresse on the English Channel, near Le Havre, France. Monet depicted a garden with a view of Honfleur.
The garden is located on the southern bank of the estuary of the Seine across from Le Havre. Monet combines smooth, traditional rendering with sparkling passages of rapid, separate brushwork, and spots of pure color.
The figures are assumed to be family members consisting of Monet’s father, Monet’s cousins, and their father. Although the scene projects a comfortable family setting, Monet’s relations with his father were tense.
His father disapproved of Monet’s liaison with Camille Doncieux. Camille became pregnant and gave birth to their first child, Jean, in 1867. Monet and Camille married in 1870.
The composition’s flat horizontal bands of color are reminiscent of Japanese color woodblock prints. There is a print by the Japanese artist Hokusai that may have inspired this picture.
The Japanese print remained part of Monet’s personal collection to the end of his life. Japanese color woodblock prints were avidly collected and studied by Monet and other artists of the time like Manet, Renoir, and Whistler.
The elevated perspective and relatively even horizontal areas emphasize the two-dimensionality of the painting. The composition seems to rise parallel to the picture plane instead of receding into space.
The tension from the combination of illusion and the two-dimensionality of the surface is an essential characteristic of this artwork.