This painting by Camille Pissarro titled “The Woods at Marly” depicts a scene of fall harvest in a small, colorful wood. This painting is dominated by elements of nature, including trees, leaves, bushes, and dirt, which contrast the small unidentifiable people walking amongst the trees. I’ve always liked impressionist art over other modern art forms because I feel like it creates a balance between classic work and modern work. “The Woods at Marly” is no exception to the fleeting beauty conveyed in impressionist work, but the portrayal of a fall forest transcends what impressionism is to me. The color-blending and hasty brush marks of the painting stay true to the impressionist outlook on painting, but I think it carries some attention to detail that is often overlooked in art of it’s kind. Since impressionism is supposed to capture “the impression” of a situation, I think Pissarro’s piece turns the commonplace fall harvest into a scene of idyllic serenity and nostalgia that is hard to understand in the Old Master’s artwork. Even the way the trees frame the pathway drawing the viewer’s eye through the canvas towards the bright green of the outer forest creates a sense of artistic depth in which one can travel through the painting’s subject into its core, which I think is what impressionist painters want the viewer to experience. Although the impressionist artwork was seen as a silly way of painting in its time, compared to the previous works of art the way feeling can be brought through, even in something as simple as some trees, is far more developed than any biblical masterpiece. I also enjoy how the short, irregular brushstrokes stay true to the multitude of leaf shapes one sees in real life, and how the colors blend together yet stand out so distinctly when one is up close to the painting. These elements give a more realistic impression onto the painting than any old masterpiece does, as wanting to create an image as accurately as possible does not express the gestures and idiosyncrasies that come from emotion over substance. I appreciate this painting all the more in the way that it creates a lasting impression in my mind, which I think captures the essence of the impressionistic goal.
In Claude Monet’s 1891 painting, Haystacks (Sunset), the subject matter is as simple and pedestrian as the title: a single haystack in an empty field, backlit by the sunset. What makes the work appealing is Monet’s colorful, hazy rendering of the scene. The aspect of the painting that impresses me most is Monet’s use of a wide spectrum of colors and hues. Every color of the rainbow from red all the way through to indigo is utilized in some way. The predominance of floral shades of indigo, lavender, vermilion, and pale yellow inspires a feeling of serenity and bliss. Monet’s decision to compose the body of the haystack with darker hues of red-orange and khaki, and then to outline it with the soft yellows and pinks of the surrounding air creates a glowing effect around the haystack, a kind of halo of light. The haziness of the picture is another very effective element; the dim outlines of buildings and hills in the background, along with the blurry edges of the haystack, the amorphous sea of lavender flowers, and the glowing quality of the light combine to give an impression that the air is full of dust after a long summer day of farming. The haziness could also convey the tiredness one might feel after that long day of working the fields. All of these elements come together to create an immersive and enchanting picture that very accurately portrays the dreamlike feeling of a glorious summer sunset in the country.
This painting, by Gustave Caillebotte, features a fair amount of realism while retaining stylistic qualities of Impressionism. Though not glaringly obvious, there are areas of the painting that have noticeable brush strokes: the shadow of the lamp post, the facade of the orange edifice on the far right, the shading on the cobblestone tiles. This not only keeps with the style of Impressionism, but helps to create the illusion of wet pavement/cobblestone. Since this painting is intended to depict a rainy day, the painter chose to use muted tones, painting within similar color families throughout the whole canvas. Pale neutrals and blues dominate the scene, with occasional pops of orange and green. The colors smartly portray a rainy day, mimicking the way the overcast sky alters the way light is perceived. Due to the subtle peachiness of the sky, it almost looks as though Caillebotte was attempting to show that there was sunlight behind the clouds. In terms of composition, the painting is rather simply structured and easy to follow. However, the image is bisected by the green lamp post and its shadow, which gives the illusion that the work is a diptych, which, in a way, removes the foreground subjects from those of the middle and background. By choosing to “divide” the image, the artist is seemingly highlighting the commonality of the foreground subjects, which is not unlike other work done by Caillebotte, who created common urban and household scenes with hints of realism (see also: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/af/G._Caillebotte_-_Jeune_homme_à_la_fenêtre.jpg). Overall, this work captures the essence of a rainy day on Paris Street because it accurately depicts the way light appears through clouds as well as features very commonplace subject matter.