In the autumn of 1870, Paris was under siege during the Franco-Prussian War, and Monet fled France with his young family. They settled in London, where he painted this misty view of the Thames the following spring.
While in London, Monet sought out new buildings to paint. Although the Houses of Parliament is Gothic in style, it had only recently been rebuilt, having been destroyed by a fire in 1834.
Victoria Embankment, seen here on the right, was also newly constructed.
If you look closely, you can see the figures on the jetty are workmen still finishing the construction.
Monet uses the surface of the river to reflect the jetty’s broken shadow. His short, angular brushstrokes give the impression of moving water.
Monet was fascinated by London’s fog and mists. Here he gives a sense of the atmosphere through the hazy sky, which is reflected in the water, and the ghostly silhouettes of buildings and boats.
This view obviously caught Monet’s attention. When he returned to London years later, he painted the Houses of Parliament and Waterloo Bridge many times over, depicting them at different times of the day, in different atmospheric conditions.
The Thames below Westminster (about 1871) by Claude MonetThe National Gallery, London