Claude Monet The Impressionist’s World

This post may contain affiliate links. I may make a commission if you purchase through them. :)

Monet was one of a group of well-known painters in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Some of his most famous paintings are: View At Rouelles, Hunting Trophy, Mouth of the Seine at Honfleur, Fontainebleau Forest, Camille (The Woman in the Green Dress), Luncheon on the Grass, Garden at Sainte-Adresse, The Quai at the Louvre, The Pont Neuf, The Thames below Westminster, Impression, Sunrise (Impression, soleil levant), Poppies (Coquelicots), Red Boats – Argenteuil, Woman with a Parasol, Landscape: The Parc Monceau, and The Boat Studio.

The group he belonged to developed the Impressionist movement, which was named after one of Monet’s paintings “Impression, Sunrise.”


Impressionism emphasizes the artist’s perception of a scene, rather than an accurate, detailed representation. It deals mainly with landscape or figures painted within a landscape. Short brushstrokes are used to do much of the color blending directly on the support, using a primary palette to capture light and movement with the painterly use of the brush and medium. Minimal details are needed for this style of painting, and although much of the painting is done en plein air, the work is not necessarily completed outdoors.

Monet The Painter

Claude Monet began his artistic life as a youth, learning drawing and sketching. He attended a painting atelier, although he did not complete his work there. He also painted with Boudin and Jongkind, both Dutch landscape artists. It was through these men that Monet began painting en plein air. This was an awakening and the beginning of a lifelong passion.

Although Monet’s paintings look spontaneous, they are not. They are the result of planning, drawing and sketching preliminary compositions, as well as careful study of the subject. He painted series of the same subject to examine the way light changes a scene during the course of a day. It was common for him to arrive at a location with a great number of canvases, so that he could work on different paintings as the day and light progressed. Although he is known as a plein air painter, he did not complete all his work on site. The partially complete work would return with him for completion in his studio.

Monet’s Materials

Monet focused on landscape and figures within a landscape. He used a limited palette, eschewing browns and earth tones. As time passed, it was reduced even further. His palette was made up of Lead White, Chrome Yellow, Viridian Green, Emerald Green, French Ultramarine, Cobalt Blue, Madder Red, Vermilion and Ivory Black.

After 1886, Monet eliminated black from his palette. Some of the colors existing at that time are no longer produced, or there are modern equivalents available. Titanium White substitutes for Lead White, Cadmium Yellow Light is the modern equivalent of Chrome Yellow and Alizarin Crimson replaces Madder Red. The colors he chose were opaque and were often used directly from the tube, with no preliminary mixing. He often scumbled his colors. This is the mixing of wet paint onto a dry layer, allowing areas of the dried paint to gleam through.

Monet was an oil painter and saw the birth of a new technology. Premixed oil paint in tubes was a wondrous and wonderful development for artists of that time. The ability to have paints ready to use at will, to squeeze directly onto the canvas, carry ready-made paint to the field and purchase more ready-to-use was a liberating thing for every artist.

He broke from tradition by using tinted canvas. Rather than the natural color of the canvas, Monet often chose to prime his support with a stark white, pale gray or light yellow. This adds to the punch or luminosity of a painting, as it gives the paint applied on top a brighter underlayment.

Not Just A Bunch Of Splotches

Monet was a trained draftsman and was adept at sketching, drawing and had studied painting as a youth. Even though he downplayed his technical abilities, he did not merely slap-dash a painting out haphazardly. Although his work may look spontaneous, it was his skill as a craftsman and the time he spent developing his compositions that makes his work appear so. He made sketches in pencil, pastel and chalk, not only to expand ideas for his paintings, but as complete works unto themselves.

He often painted a series, developing works of the same subject as the lighting changed during the day. He would go from canvas to canvas as the sun changed the effects of light and shadow on his subject.

Monet’s technique included building up texture through his brushwork. The strokes varied from thick to thin, progressing from dark to light. These paintings were not completed in one session, especially when using the scumbling technique. Working from dark to light, he would finish his paintings with the highlights and brightest touches of color.

To paint in the manner of Monet, a student should be knowledgeable about his subject, spending time to develop his composition. Skill in drawing and composition is essential to create the spontaneous look that Monet’s work portrays. He should limit his color choices, using pure colors to create the illusion of blending by their juxtaposition, rather than over-mixing them on his palette. For a fresh adventure in painting, go outdoors and make some pretty splotches.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *