Interpretive Resource

Overview: Monet's "Stacks of Wheat" Series

An overview of Monet's grainstack painting series, executed in 1890 and 1891 with the goal of recording the same objects in different atmospheric conditions.

Book: Master Paintings
Art Institute of Chicago. Master Paintings in The Art Institute of Chicago. The Art Institute of Chicago, 1999, p. 68.

Enormous stacks of harvested wheat, rising fifteen to twenty feet in height, stood just outside Claude Monet’s farmhouse door at Giverny, his home from 1883 until his death. Monet painted the stacks in 1890 and 1891, both in the field, where he worked at several easels simultaneously, and in the studio, where he refined his paintings. Only by executing multiple views of the same subject, Monet found, could he truly render, as he put it, "what I experience"—how he perceived and responded to these stacks of grain, defined by light and air as time passed and weather changed. Constructed by man but created by nature, the stacks were for Monet a resonant symbol of sustenance and survival. While the compositions seem simple, Monet modulated his palette and brushwork to each temporal situation he confronted. In late summer views, such as this, as well as in most of the autumn views, the pointed tops of the stacks often seem to burst through the horizon into the sky. On the other hand, in the majority of winter views, the long-lasting stacks seem nestled into hill and field, as if hibernating from the cold of the season.

In May 1891, the artist hung fifteen of the wheat-stack compositions next to one another in a small room in his dealer’s Paris gallery, thus firmly establishing his famous method of working in series. The Art Institute boasts the largest group of Monet’s Stacks of Wheat in the world; five of the six in the collection numbered among the original canvases Monet placed on view in 1891.

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