The National Gallery, London
He painted from vantage points where he could see the whole width of the façade, the portal, the Tour de Beurre, and the Tour d’Albane. For a time he worked from a ladies’ clothes shop, sharing the second floor with a changing room, separated by a screen.
Monet intended the paintings of the cathedral to be seen as a group and he selected 20 to exhibit in his dealer Durand-Ruel’s gallery in Paris in 1895. Durand-Ruel was concerned that Monet’s price of 15,000 francs was too high, but some were bought.
The exhibition received a mixed response from critics, in part due to the religious nature of the building depicted. Some found a dreamlike quality in the way light played upon the cathedral’s façade. This quality was perhaps increased by seeing 20 of the canvases together.
The Rouen Cathedral paintings represent a new departure for Monet. He is no longer only capturing effects of light and weather. He wrote of painting Rouen, ‘I am more and more mad about the need to render what I feel or experience’.
In this series he imbues his paintings of the cathedral’s resolute façade with a psychological aspect which would continue into later architectural series, especially his scenes of Venice.