Painting of the Day

4 Apr

La Grenouillère

La Grenouillère. By Claude Monet (1840-1926). Oil on canvas, 1869. On view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC.

Notes from metmuseum.org:

Monet noted on September 25, 1869, “I do have a dream, a painting [‘tableau’], the baths of La Grenouillère, for which I have made some bad sketches [‘pochades’], but it is only a dream. Renoir, who has just spent two months here, also wants to do this painting.” Monet and Renoir, both desperately poor, were quite close at this time.

This painting and one in London (National Gallery) are probably the “pochades” Monet mentioned; another painting, now lost but formerly in the Arnhold collection in Berlin, may well have been the “tableau” that he dreamed of. The broad, constructive brushstrokes here are clearly those of a sketch; at this time, Monet sought a more delicate and carefully calibrated surface for his exhibition pictures. (A nearly identical composition by Renoir is in the Nationalmuseum, Stockholm.)

Monet and Renoir both recognized in La Grenouillère—a spa and working-class resort—an ideal subject for the images of leisure they hoped to sell. Optimistically promoted as a “Trouville-sur-Seine,” it was easily accessible by train from Paris and had just been favored with a visit by Emperor Napoleon III and his wife and son.

My comments:

A few weeks ago I posted Helen Frankenthaler’s Sea Picture With Black, a painting that is similar to this one in that both depict water. In that previous post, I stated that Frankenthaler’s version of water was in many ways more expressive of water than a more realistic depiction would have been. Yet I have to admit, I find Monet’s depiction of the water above exceedingly vivid and quite beautiful. None of the rest of the painting is all that great to me, although I do like how Monet adjusted all the shades in a way to effectively communicate how the dock and the people are bathed in the shadow of the trees on a sunny day. But the water, which you can tell Monet painted with a pattern of light and dark blues plus some yellows and greens, looks exquisite. That water just appears so inviting and refreshing to me, I want to dip my hand into it. Frankenthaler’s painting doesn’t give you the same feeling. It expresses reality in a different way. Perhaps the difference is that it expresses what we intellectually associate with the ocean while Monet’s painting conveys what we physically experience when we encounter a body of water.

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One Response to “Painting of the Day”

  1. tara April 5, 2013 at 2:10 pm #

    i can almost feel the boats rocking.

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