Ice breaking up on the Seine near Bennecourt

Claude Monet1893

Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool

Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool

One of a series of paintings Monet worked on during the winter of 1892-1893 when the Seine near his house at Giverny froze and thawed in quick succession. At this time Monet frequently painted in series the same scene at varying times of the day in an attempt to capture the changing atmospheric effects of light and colour. In this picture Monet concentrated on the ice flows breaking up under an overcast blue-grey sky, while others in the series capture the scene under a hazy morning sum or the chilling effect of an icy mist. Monet’s complaints, while painting the series, about the extreme cold and the untimely arrival of the thaw, perhaps explain the broad brushstrokes which appear to have been laid in quickly.

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  • Title: Ice breaking up on the Seine near Bennecourt
  • Creator: Claude Monet
  • Date Created: 1893
  • tag / style: Claude Monet; Seine; ice; atmoshpere; cold; freezing; frozen; river; en plein air; Giverny; weather; Impressionist; France; French
  • subject: Bennecourt, France
  • Physical Dimensions: w1000 x h650 cm (Without frame)
  • Artist biographical information: The landscape painter, Claude Monet (1840-1926) was one of the principal members of a circle of French artists who from 1874 onwards were collectively known as ‘Impressionists’. In April and May 1874 pictures by Monet and by other artists like Renoir, Cezanne, Sisley and Pissarro, were exhibited together in Paris. One of Monet’s paintings was a misty view of the northern French port of Le Havre entitled 'Impression - Sunrise'. A critic adapted this title to coin a name that described the whole group.
  • Additional artwork information: Monet’s main break with previous painting practice was giving up the use of sombre earth colours like brown and black and abandoning the traditional dark underpainting on a canvas in which the picture’s tonal structure was established. He tried to paint the bright clear colours of true nature - honestly, simply and unmediated by academic or conventional practices. Some other artists in the Impressionist circle thought Monet went too far - Degas, for instance disliked the anti-intellectual implication of Monet’s approach, suggesting that in this sense the artist was merely like a glorified camera. Monet’s solution to the problem of capturing the fleeting appearance of light was to paint quickly in large vigorous brushstrokes - rapidly capturing what he called the ‘sensation’. This quasi-scientific term suggests that there was something objective about Monet’s scrutiny and recording of the landscape before him but ‘sensation’ is a term that is uncomfortably incapable of clearer definition and when we look at Monet’s pictures we marvel at his very distinctive, individual, idiosyncratic and lyrical rendering of what was before him. This picture was painted in 1893 and shows the River Seine - in northern France - near to Monet’s home at Giverny. It is early morning or late afternoon and the time of year is probably February as the ice breaks up and flows downriver. It is assumed that most of the picture was painted on the spot and Monet may have been attracted to the view precisely because the ice on the water produced such a complex mix of colours.
  • Type: Oil on canvas
  • Rights: Purchased with the help of the V&A Purchase Grant Fund in 1962


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