Tag Archives: haystacks

On the Trail of Monet’s Cathedrals and Haystacks: Giverny and the Haystack Series

Monet’s gardens at Giverny look like his paintings, with splashes of red and purple, dabs of blue, and whole patches of sunflower yellow everywhere you look. Some flowers tower over you, while others stretch out right into your face.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A wide path with plant-covered arches leads to the front door of the pink farmhouse with its green shutters.

A sunny yellow dining room and blue delft tiles in the kitchen invite you to come in and explore.

 

 

 

 

To get to the lily pond, we crossed under the road and followed a wooded stream that helped form the pond. The stream didn’t have enough water for Monet’s plans, so he built ditches to divert more water from a nearby river. His neighbors worried that there’d be no water for their cows or that Monet’s imported water lilies might even poison them, so Monet had to get approval from the town council to complete his lily pond.

Weeping willows overhand the pond, and water lilies crowd each other for room to grow. Between rafts of water lilies, reflections of the willows and other trees and flowers catch the sunlight. The Japanese bridge is really there in among the willow branches!

We found spots that looked a lot like paintings we’d seen in Paris. Here’s one of those next to a water lily painting by Monet from the Marmottan! 

 

 

Walking along the stream to the pond, we passed a field where cows grazed, a field similar to where Monet painted his haystack series in the fall and winter of 1890. Some of the haystacks painted in the winter were Monet’s favorite. In the spring Monet exhibited 15 of the haystack paintings with great success.

He painted in the same field, so the composition in each of the haystack paintings is similar—one or two conical haystacks seen against the strong horizontals of trees and houses in the middle distance, with another horizontal line of hills in the far distance to form the horizon line with the sky above.

The far hills, the roof tops, and the haystack shadows often contain the same colors and so tie all the parts together. In some of the paintings, the top of the haystack is silhouetted against the sky, and in some (as in this view) the slanted roofs of the houses in the middle distance clearly echo the slant of the haystacks.

Grainstacks-Late Summer, Giverny by Claude Monet

In this painting I photographed at the Musee d’Orsay the summer sun warms the stacks and highlights their texture made with thick unblended brush strokes. As in his garden, Monet doesn’t want to tame his brushstrokes to make a formal picture of a haystack. His purpose is to show how light changes what the haystacks look like in all kinds of weather and light.

Grainstack detail

Activities

  1. Go online to study the shadows of some of these haystack paintings. Notice how their shapes and colors change with the weather and time of day. In one winter scene the orange sky contrasts vibrantly with the complementary blue of the cold shadowy snow on top of the stacks, on the roofs of the houses, and on the line of far hills. In some paintings the stacks are silhouetted against a golden sunset with just a few touches of bright outlining from the low setting sun.
  2. Cut out a small rectangular “window” from white paper and use it to concentrate on different areas of an Impressionist painting. Look at all the colors in a “green” field or a Renoir face. Feeling brave? Try painting what you see through the little window!
  3. Two great picture books about Monet’s garden: Linnea in Monet’s Garden by Christina Bjork, is a classic and mentions visiting the Marmottan. The Magical Garden of Claude Monet by Laurence Anholt has a foldout view of the gardens.

 

Sunflowers and blue Delft are favorites of Molly, too.Next Kathythepicturelady post is about Rouen and its cathedral that has survived over 700 years of wars and weather disasters. Be sure and sign up to receive these posts!

All photos in this post were taken by the author.

 

 

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On the Trail of Monet’s Cathedrals and Haystacks: Musee d’Orsay, Paris

When my husband and I visited northern France recently,  one of our delights was to enjoy Impressionist art in two Paris museums that have large Impressionist collections, see as many of Monet’s cathedral and haystack paintings as possible, and travel to the sites where Monet painted them.

When Impressionist art finally caught on and began to sell, Monet bought a farmhouse and land in Giverny, just an hour by train west of Paris near the Seine River. He devoted years and lots of francs to creating and painting his gardens and also spent much time on several series of paintings that highlight his passion to show how light constantly changes an object, (haystacks, poplars, cathedral) depending on time of day or weather.

We planned and followed our own “Monet Trail” from Paris to Giverny and on to Rouen in Normandy.

We began with Musee d’Orsay in Paris. (In the left photo above, Musee s’Orsay is to the left of the Eiffel Tower. Photo taken from the Tuileries)

Musee d’Orsay began as Gare d’Orsay, a large, ornate train station

Gare d’Orsay, wikimedia

across the Seine from the Louvre, serving trains coming from southwestern France, but by 1939 the trains had outgrown its short platforms. The station eventually faced demolition, but in the 1970s it was listed as an historical monument and saved. An idea surfaced to turn the station into a museum for Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art, which didn’t fit the Louvre, whose collection ended in the mid 1800s, or the Pompidou Center, which houses more modern art—think Picasso.

So Gare d’Orsay reopened its doors in 1986 as Musee d’Orsay, and once again people rush to get in.

You must still run a gauntlet of shops, but instead of food and neck pillows, posters, paint sets, and umbrellas, all with Impressionist scenes, tempt you.

We resisted and emerged into a huge open space. Beneath its soaring glass roof, trains once pulled in, slowing to a stop at platforms where travelers waited to board.

 

 

 

 

A gold decorative design still climbs the walls and arches across the roof. A large, gilded clock that once helped passengers get to their trains on time, still hangs high above.

Look back at the old station photo above to see the clock and that the walls and roof haven’t changed much.

But statues now stand where the tracks ran, and people now step into galleries of Realist paintings (Millet, Corot, etc.) and Post-Impressionist works (Van Gogh, Seurat, etc.) instead of into trains.

We would come back to those, but hoping to beat the crowds, we walked to the far end of the museum to take a series of escalators to the very top, where under the roof, rooms of incredible Impressionist art follow one another like train cars.

Woman with Parasol paintings by Monet

We spent several happy hours with colorful and light-filled paintings by Monet, Pissarro, Degas, Morisot, Renoir, Cassatt, and others. And among the paintings, we saw several from Monet’s haystack and cathedral series!

We took time to look out at Paris through the 2 mammoth clocks way up there under the roof and stroll on the balcony that gives amazing views of the Louvre all the way to Sacre Coeur on top of Montmartre. A bright beginning to our vacation!

 

 

 

 

And how wonderful that France has preserved this historic station and used it so appropriately for displaying Impressionist art. I’ll explain why it’s so appropriate in an upcoming post. But my very next post will be about another terrific, but lesser-known, collection of Impressionist art in Paris.

Activity

The Impressionists had many things in common such as their colorful modern subjects, but some preferred landscapes, while others enjoyed painting people.

Look at a few paintings by the following artists, and you’ll soon see what each preferred. But also notice the subtle differences between types of landscapes or types of people. Monet vs. Pissarro; Degas vs. Renoir. And why do you think the women, Berthe Morisot and Mary Cassatt, concentrated on family life? Was that just their preference or was there another reason? Let me know what you think!

Molly loves the Paris lifestyle!

Sign up to receive Kathythepicturelady posts and find out about our next stop in Paris, the one that has the world’s largest collection of Monet’s paintings, including the painting that gave the art movement its name, Impression, Sunrise. And to find out how individual Impressionist artists differed.

Except for the old postcard of Gare d’Orsay, all photos in this post were taken by the author.