Tag Archives: Impressionists

On the Trail of Monet’s Cathedrals and Haystacks: Rouen

In the afternoon we tore ourselves away from Monet’s sunny garden to make our train connection to Rouen to see the cathedral that Monet painted so many times.

As we waited on the platform of the little train station, the weather changed. Wind brought clouds and the first rain of our trip. It continued to rain while we were in Rouen, a city on the Seine River not far from the Atlantic. I didn’t mind, though, as one of Monet’s cathedral views is in the rain, and he actually liked to try to capture the effects of rain and fog.

On this rainy Sunday few people were about, and no sun lit up the exterior of Rouen Cathedral or pierced through the stained glass that remains. It’s slim Gothic pillars still soar up to its high vault, and outside it wears its age with dignity and lacy beauty. And some parts of it are really old!

There has been a Christian church on the site of Rouen Cathedral since Roman times. Since then it has been partially destroyed by wars, fires, and storms many times, and just as often been rebuilt. The Vikings destroyed the early church and then rebuilt it when they settled the area.

 

The first (Viking/Norseman) Norman duke, Rollo, is buried under his effigy in the ambulatory.

Effigy of Rollo

For many, many years Rouen continued to be Norman/English land, and Richard the Lionheart’s heart is buried under his effigy next to his ancestor, Rollo.

Effigy of King Richard

 

 

 

 

The cathedral was rebuilt in the new Gothic style in the 12th century, but  fires and storms caused more rebuilding in the 13th century. Then in the 1400s, the façade was made over in the highly-decorative Flamboyant Gothic style, so that today the cathedral still looks like it’s wearing a garment of stony lace.

In WWII Rouen was a major supply depot for the Nazis, so the city and the cathedral were heavily bombed. The cathedral suffered several direct hits that caused much destruction. It was repaired, but in 1999 a storm toppled a huge pinnacle weighing many tons, which crashed through the roof and into the choir. When you look up you can still see the repaired place where it came through.

Today Rouen Cathedral is a mixture from all those times—some, like the North Tower, date back to the 1100s, while some stained glass and other sections are from the 1200s and 1400s. The middle spire or tower, made of iron, was installed in the 1800s, and, of course, repairs from WWII and the 1999 storm are even more recent.

Monet knew this cathedral well. He grew up in Normandy, a brother lived in the city, and it was just a short train ride from Giverny. As he thought about his next series, Rouen with its lacy exterior must have come readily to mind. He rented a room across the square from the cathedral and painted over 30 views of its façade over the next 2 years. Today a sign marks the spot from which he painted.

But as with every other subject Monet paints the light more than the cathedral. He studied how the cathedral changed with the sun’s angle and the weather. Some views show the sun rising behind the north tower. Others show the deep shadows produced by full sunlight. It’s an oblique view, although a few of the paintings are more face on.

The details of that lacy exterior would defeat most artists but Monet’s short, sketchy brush strokes give the cathedral a lacy texture just as his thick paint gave the haystacks a strawlike texture.

Rouen Cathedral, Facade and the Tour d’Albane, Gray Weather, Claude Monet, Rouen Museum

One of my favorites is the rainy day cathedral with its many tones of browns and creams. You can see the reflections on the wet cobblestones, just as we did.

When 20 of the paintings in this series went on sale, Georges Clemenceau, who later became France’s prime minister, was enthralled by them and bought one. He was a fan of Monet and wrote many admiring reviews of Monet’s work in his newspaper.

Activity

Find a permanent object or building outside that you can view for a week or so at all times of day and in different weather. Observe how light changes colors and shadows. Write down your obsevations or make sketches.

Molly is inspired and ready to paint!!

Are you signed up to receive the next Kathythe picturelady post? It will be an Easter post with more photos of the Isenheim altarpiece that I first showed at Christmas.

Later in April will be some devotional thoughts based on this whole Cathedrals and Haystacks series.

All photos in this post by the author

Advertisements

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.

 

 

On the Trail of Monet’s Cathedrals and Haystacks: Gare Saint-Lazare, Paris

After several days in Paris, we left for Giverny and Normandy, and we’d go by train as the Impressionists did.

Train in the Countryside, Claude Monet

In the late 1800s trains were changing life for people in and out of Paris. They allowed people living outside the city to come in to work. Weekend trains with double decker cars, as seen in this painting by Monet, took the Impressionists and other Parisians out of the city to relax at restaurants, and popular swimming, boating, and fishing spots.

Trains and train stations show up in a surprising number of their paintings.

The Railway Bridge at Argenteuil, Claude Monet, author photo

They were a part of the modern life that the Impressionists were determined to show. Which is why Musee d’Orsay, a former train station, is so appropriate as a museum for Impressionist art!

 

 

 

It is Gare Saint-Lazare in the northwest part of the city, where many of the Impressionists lived, that shows up in their paintings. Its trains took people to popular recreational sites along the Seine River as it flows northwest from Paris to the Atlantic. Monet would also have taken the train from there to get to and from small towns such as Argenteuil, and eventually Giverny, where he and his family lived.

Both Monet and Gustave Caillebotte painted this station. Caillebotte painted from the large bridge that crossed over the tracks behind the station and was more interested in architectural features of the bridge itself. Caillebotte’s painting, pictured below, is titled Le Pont de L’Europe.

Monet painted the station from many angles in a number of paintings done in 1877. His interest was, as always, the effects of light on his subject, and he even convinced the station supervisor to delay the trains and produce more steam than usual so he could paint these effects. In these paintings steam and smoke billow up in tints of blue and pink and gray to the glass and iron roof of Gare Saint-Lazare. Monet’s painting is titled La Gare Saint-Lazare.

Saint-Lazare is still the main station to travel from Paris to Giverny and on to Rouen and other cities of coastal Normandy, so we arrived at the station early on a Saturday morning.

 

Steam no longer fills the train shed, but people still hurry into the station to catch their trains. Along with many others, we grabbed a croissant and a cup of coffee on our way to the platforms. A babble of voices impatient to begin their journeys surrounds us. We’re ready, too. Now that we’ve seen the paintings, we’re ready to visit Monet’s home and famous gardens. On to Giverny!

Activities

  1. Compare Le Pont De L’Europe by Caillebotte to Le Pont De L’Europe, Gare Saint-Lazare by Monet to see the difference in viewpoint and technique! (Both these are shown above)
  2. Read an enjoyable picture book called, Claude Monet: The Painter Who Stopped the Trains by P.I. Maltbie. It has an author’s note, some reproductions of Monet’s work, and a list of North American museums with his work

Molly is all packed and ready to go!

Are you ready to recieve the next Kathythepicturelady post about our visit to Monet’s beloved gardens at Giverny?

All photos in this post were taken by the author.

 

 

 

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.