Claude Monet
French, 1840–1926
On the Bank of the Seine, Bennecourt
1868

Oil on canvas
32 1/16 x 39 5/8 in. (81.5 x 100.7 cm)
Inscribed, lower left: Cl. Monet / 1868
Potter Palmer Collection, 1922.427

One of the early masterpieces of Impressionism, On the Bank of the Seine, Bennecourt by Claude Monet depicts the artist's future wife, Camille Doncieux, sitting near the River Seine. Monet began the painting while he, Camille, and their new son, Jean, were staying at an inn near the village of Bonnières-sur-Seine. During this early phase in his career, the artist was struggling financially (unable to pay, he and his family were forced to leave the inn after several weeks). Although he was discouraged by the unfavorable response to his works, young Monet was on the verge of an unprecedented artistic breakthrough, embodied in the Art Institute’s painting.

Monet depicted Camille enjoying a glorious day, looking across the river from the town of Bennecourt. The smooth water of the Seine reflects the inn where the couple was staying. The rowboat painted in the foreground transported them to and from the inn. Among the greatest of Monet’s oil sketches, On the Banks of the Seine, Bennecourt reveals the early hallmarks of Impressionism: a commonplace subject; an open-air setting in the countryside near Paris; broken, vibrating brushstrokes that depict the fluctuations of light; a high-keyed palette of rapidly applied blues, greens, and yellows; and forms that evoke a sense of immediacy.

Claude Monet
French, 1840–1926
Arrival of the Normandy Train, Gare Saint-Lazare
1877

Oil on canvas
23 1/2 x 31 1/2 in. (59.6 x 80.2 cm)
Inscribed, lower left: Claude Monet 77
Mr. and Mrs. Martin A. Ryerson Collection, 1933.1158

Monet eventually found that by painting subjects repeatedly—at different times of the day, during different seasons, and under varying light conditions—he could best practice the Impressionist emphasis on light and atmosphere. Arrival of the Normandy Train, Gare Saint-Lazare is one of seven paintings Monet made of the famous Paris train station that served the suburbs along the Seine valley. A recently completed example of modern iron-frame-and-glass architecture, the station was an enormous vault filled with steam and bustling with movement.

Using rapid, often sketchlike, brush strokes, Monet captured the light as it poured through the glass roof and mixed with the whirling clouds of steam. Despite its bold style, the painting is a significant example of the Impressionist focus on city life, as seen in the architectural environment and the train itself. Later in his career, Monet would largely abandon urban views in favor of depicting the undisturbed world of nature.

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