A young Claude Monet was constantly in awe of the sea. At the young age of five, Monet and his family moved to the coastal town of Le Havre in Normandy. As a haven for any budding naturalist, the bustling town by the sea proved the perfect environment to experience the shifting patterns of weather and atmosphere. With its windy cliffs and a tranquil sea that seamlessly blended with the horizon, the Normandy coast was a dream subject for any aspiring painter. It was in this environment that Monet’s extraordinary artistic career took root.
Today, Monet is widely regarded as the indisputable founding father of Impressionism. A break from traditional Academic painting, this distinctly modern movement sought to capture the perceptions of a moment on canvas. The result was an utterly new and revolutionary way of seeing. Rather than simply reproducing an object on canvas, the Impressionists painted the light as it fell on an object. Cathedrals were no longer composed of stone and brick, but of light and shadows in an exquisite array of hues.
The most discernible example of this can be seen in Monet’s remarkable “series” paintings, which he began in the late 1880s and 1890s. In an attempt to explore the changing effects of light and atmosphere on a scene, Monet set out to paint the same place different times of the day and year. The Rouen Cathedral, haystacks, poplars, cliffs on the Normandy coast – all became subjects of these exploratory works. The works best embody the impressionist belief in the changeableness of atmosphere, and represent a significant development in his career.
One series of works where this is most evident is his extraordinary work in the coastal city of Dieppe. Close to the town of his childhood, this setting provided Monet with the most basic elements for his canvases: the earth, sea, and sky. One example in the series, Au Val Saint-Nicolas pres Dieppe, Matin, uses an explicitly pastel palette of elegant light blues, seafoam greens, and pale violets. Yet, while a work in the morning is imbued with the soft purples and blues of sunrise, others capture the richer hues of the evening sky. Together, these works are an ode to the ideals of the movement – capturing moments, mere impressions, on canvas.