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Haystacks (Sunset) – Claude Monet, 1891

Haystacks (Sunset) – Claude Monet, 1891

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.  

Paris Street, Rainy Day (Caillebotte, 1877)

Paris Street, Rainy Day (Caillebotte, 1877)

caillebotte-paris-street-in-rainy-weather-1877

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.