Monet


"IF MONET IS REGARDED AS THE IMPRESSIONIST par excellence, one must admit that both Degas and Renoir also have their own special qualities. CÚzanne, too, merits individual study, although his development in relation to later art seems to set him somewhat apart from the Impressionist movement as a whole. However, when considered with reference to Monet\'s life and work, the concepts applied in interpreting Impressionist art - in particular, those of the impression, the stroke, the contrast of colors, and the consistency with which the consequences of the Impressionist ideas visible at the beginning of an artist\'s career are elaborated in the long course of that individual career - make Monet\'s position central.


"By his fellow painters Monet was regarded as a leader, not because he was the most intellectual or theoretically minded or because he was able to answer questions that they could not answer, but because in his art he seemed to be more alert to the possibilities latent in their common ideas, which he then developed in his work in a more radical way than did the others. Considering how all these painters developed their intensely personal manners with respect to the new artistic ideas, we may observe that the new elements appeared most often for the first time in the work of Monet and then were taken over by the other Impressionists, who incorporated them as suggestions or as definite means and applied them in their own ways.


"A clear example of Monet\'s influence can be noted in the change in Degas\'s art after the middle 1870s when his color began to approach that of the other Impressionists and he employed techniques, particularly in pastel, that gave to the whole a more granular, broken, and flickering effect - qualities not found in his earlier work. That is true also of CÚzanne, Pissarro, and Renoir. Monet showed the way, even if the development of the others seemed to diverge from his.


"There is still another reason for Monet\'s outstanding position as an Impressionist. If we compare his paintings over a short period with the paintings of the others, we see that while the others painted within a restricted range of ideas and even of feelings, so that the Renoirs of the period 1873-76 are characterized by the joyousness in a collective world of recreation described earlier, Monet, with his powerful, ever alert eye, was able to paint at the same time brilliant pictures and also rather grayed ones in neutral tones. He was more reactive, he had more of that quality that psychologists of that time called "Impressionability." That is to say, he was open to more varied stimuli from the common world that for these painters was the evident source of the subjects of their paintings.


"Monet could appear variable at any given moment, producing many surprising interpretations of the common matter. He altered his technique according to his sense of the quality of the whole, whether joyous or somber, that he wanted to construct in response to the powerful stimulus from the object that engaged him in the act of painting. Similarly, over the course of years, his art underwent a most remarkable general transformation. The early work of Monet appears as a painting of directly seen objects characterized by great mobility and variety. His art is a world of streets and harbors, beaches, roads, and resorts, usually filled with human beings or showing many traces of human play and activity. In the late work, however, Monet excluded the human figure. There are practically no portraits and no figure paintings by Monet after the middle 1880s and few between 1879 and 1885. From that period, we can count all his figure paintings on one hand. He also gave up still life and painted no genre groups. He restricted himself to an increasingly silent and solitary world.


"When Monet traveled to Venice and London, he pictured those great cities from a distance, in fog or sunlight, without the clear presence of human beings and with no suggestion of their movement through that space. He tended, moreover, to shift from the painting of large to small fields; and, whereas at first the large fields were painted on small