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The End and the Beginning

The beginning of autumn signifies many things here in Chicago: the start of football season, the beginning of the end of baseball season (though some might argue that, for the Cubs at least, the end comes sooner), and the quick march towards sub-freezing temperatures. But in a final nod to the end of summer, here’s one of Monet’s Stacks of Wheat, painted at this exact time of year in 1890.

Monet painted this series of 25 paintings (of which the Art Institute owns 6—the largest number from this series in any museum) both in the fields of Giverny and in his studio from late summer in 1890 through the spring of 1891. And while the subject was the ubiquitous stacks of wheat adjacent to his property, Monet was really focusing on the ever-changing light and color throughout the course of the day and the seasons. This painting, Stacks of Wheat (End of Summer), would have been one of the first created. In it, you can see two stacks of wheat in the middle of a field with trees and hills in the background and the sun hanging low in the sky. Some of the colors—golds and blues—almost seem to indicate the beginning of autumn rather than the end of summer.

When these paintings were first shown in Paris in May 1891, a writer who attended the exhibition remarked that the paintings ranged “from the purple scarlet of summer to the chilly gray of a winter evening’s dying glow.” Here’s hoping—against hope—for more purple scarlet than chilly gray this fall in Chicago.

Claude Monet. Stacks of Wheat (End of Summer), 1890/1891. Gift of Arthur M. Wood, Sr. in memory of Pauline Palmer Wood.