View of Vétheuil (1880) by Claude MonetAlte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
Impressionist landscapes. We’ve all seen them in hotel rooms
and hospitals. They’re nice and decorative, and their subjects are, well, kind
of boring at first glance. But it was totally different in the 19th century.
Back then the pictures were shocking and revolutionary.
To get an idea of it, we need to take a closer look.
If we zoom into Claude Monet’s "View of Vétheuil", the trees, the church tower ...
... the house, the river, the boat and the people dissolve. What’s left are fragments of wild brushstrokes, a dance of spots of colour – the pixels of the late 19th century.
For the first time, painting itself was more important than the subjects it depicted. “The subject is for me an unimportant thing,” said the artist Monet. “What I want to reproduce is what is between the subject and me.”
The light, the reflections of the clouds on the water, the shimmering midday heat, the scented early mist – to find that, Impressionist painters had to get out of their studios and go out into nature.
Heat, storms, frost – they went to the limits of what they could endure.
One impressed contemporary wrote about a winter walk: "We discovered a foot warmer, then an easel, then a gentleman who was wrapped in three coats with gloves on his hands and his face half-frozen. It was Monet, working on a study of snow.”
The artist was even torn from his folding chair once by a flood wave while painting a storm. His chair was lost, washed away into the sea. But Monet preserved the moment just before that for us.
Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz