The Gare St-Lazare (1877) by Claude MonetThe National Gallery, London
Monet was so intent on painting St Lazare station in Paris, the he rented a flat nearby. He painted it many times over, this being one of four surviving canvases made of the station’s interior.
Although an interior view, the painting is structured like a landscape, with the smoke from the train’s engine creating the same effect as clouds in the sky.
Monet manipulated the wet paint to create the effect of billowing clouds of steam.
Mirrored beneath the smoke is the almost cloud-like crowd of people on the platform. Painted with swift brush strokes, they appear a homogeneous mass with no discernible individual faces.
In an otherwise hazy scene, the geometric shapes of the roof and arches provide architectural structure.
The blackness of the roof dominates the colour palette in this scene, but scientific analysis has shown that the pigments used here are actually dark blue and dark purple.
Cerulean blue, seen in the train’s funnels, was a new pigment at the time. It was created chemically (rather than from natural materials) and, like Monet’s other colours, was available in tubes (rather than ground pigment) for easy transport.