Impression, Sunrise, 1874
By Claude Monet
In 1872 Claude Monet returned to his hometown of Le Harve staying at a hotel overlooking the port. He started a series of six paintings, from various locations, each capturing the port at different times of day.
The most popular of this paintings is ‘Impression, Sunrise’ , a painting that was aptly named and the forerunner of Impressionism as we know it. Measuring 48cm x 63 cm and using oil on canvas, the painting is on display at the Musée Marmottan Monet, in Paris. Monat’s work created an image that lacked detail but created an impression of something that can be recognised.
It is a painting of the port of Le Harve at sunrise. Easily identifiable, but not in detail, are the little boats and the sun and its reflections on the water. The rest of the picture gives the viewer an impression of what is there but without a clear image. One should interpret in one’s mind as what the image actually is. Imagine looking at the port without wearing your spectacles, everything is there and your mind tries to clarify the image. This is how impressionism works. Monet eliminated existing houses on the left side of the jetty, resulting in the background being left unobscured. Monet was known for his studies of light and colour, and this canvas offers a splendid example with its flurry of brush strokes depicting the sun as an orange orb breaking through a hazy blue melding of water and sky.
Impression, Sunrise became the most famous in the series after being debuted in April 1874 in Paris at an exhibition. The exhibition was led by Monet, Edgar Degas, Camille Pissarro, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Alfred Sisley, with over two hundred works on display. The exhibition was attended by more than 300 guests and unfortunately, some very harsh critics.
While the painting was surrounded with controversy, Monet’s ‘Impression, Sunrise’ gave rise to the name and recognition of the Impressionist movement, exemplifying more than any other work or artist the Impressionist movement as a whole in style, subject, and influence.
Impressionism is an art form that I admire for its imaginative qualities. Every viewer sees a different perspective of the original work done by the artist. Our creative minds tend to fill in the missing details with what we perceive the picture contains. One man’s tower is another man’s church. It is an artform that some critics see as too simple, and others see as magnificent pieces of work.