The “rebirth” of art in Italy was connected with the rediscovery of ancient philosophy, literature, and science and the evolution of empirical methods of study in these fields. Increased awareness of classical knowledge created a new resolve to learn by direct observation and study of the natural world. Consequently, secular themes became increasingly important to artists, and with the revived interest in antiquity came a new repertoire of subjects drawn from Greek and Roman history and mythology. The models provided by ancient buildings and works of art also inspired the development of new artistic techniques and the desire to re-create the forms and styles of classical art.
As these new styles of linear and aerial perspective and pyramid structures came into use by Alberti, paintings were able to carry better-recognized religious ideas because the paintings became more transparent and more vivid in detail. Finally, artists in the high Renaissance such as Da Vinci, and Raphael developed paintings in the narrative style that demonstrated the “body in a more scientific and natural manner,” thus demonstrating the various aspects of every day life.
Claude Monet is perhaps one of the most world renowned impressionist painters. Born in Paris in 1840, he entered the world just as technology began to change the ways of society. As a child Monet showed his interests in nature. He could barely keep his patience in school, and felt the presence of the nature and outdoors call to him from inside. He would sketch out caricatures of teachers, and relatives, and sell them from within the window of a local framing shop owned by a Eugene Boudin. When it came to his art work, Monet received no inspiration from his parents. Eventually when drafted in 1860, Monet was sent to North Africa where he experienced nature the way he always felt it deep inside. That little feeling that buzzed in him as a child awakened in Africa, and it was here that his appreciation for nature emerged and would affect his works for the rest of his life. Monet returned to France in 1862 after he became ill and was sent home. From there he enrolled in the Charles Gleyre’s studio, but this only turned out to be a disappointment for Monet, but held significance in his life since it is where he met Renoir, Bazille, and Sisley. In 1864, the parents contempt for his artistic endeavors placed him in a position where his parents basically disowned him. Having little to no money, he moved in with Bazille, and worked from Bazille’s studio. Shortly thereafter Monet entered two paintings into the Salon which gained him some success. From there in 1969, Monet travels with friend Renoir to La Grenouillere, where together they begin their studies side by side.
Claude Monet can be classified as a forerunner of Impressionists, Neo-Impressionists, Fauvists, Cubists, Abstract painters, and the Non-Figurists. He is often called “The Father of Impressionism” (Taillander 6). Although Monet had some works accepted into the Salon, he was one of the first to paint in the Impressionist style, and persisted even after his works were rejected and shunned. Renoir said “Without Monet, we would all have given up” (qtd. in Taillander 8). Monet was seen as an extremist because he “captured the fleeting moment, creating a degree of wooliness in his canvasses which have not been interpreted with any certainty”(Taillander 8). In Monet’s paintings, his interest “lies not in details, but in capturing the effect of the whole scene as it would be perceived in a fleeting glance” (Welton 14). The term Impressionist was first given by a critic when reviewing Monet’s painting,
There were many important developments that made the Impressionist style of painting possible. One of these developments was painting outside or “en plein air”. Previously, artists had to paint in their studios because it was too burdensome to take large canvasses and other supplies outside. Metal tubes invented in the 1840s allowed long-term storage of paints. Paint was previously stored in pouches made from pig’s bladders. The paint hardened rapidly when exposed to air. Smaller canvasses were more easily available, making it easier for the artist to take their supplies outside. Because of these new developments, artists could paint directly and spontaneously from nature.
Monet’s painting of the Champ d’ Avoine allows us to experience his feelings through various techniques that visually speak to the viewer. It is his life in his brush stroke, and the application of paint, that presents a vivid, active, and alive environment where his subjects interact. Monet seems to show a speed in the application of his paints, and it is this speed that adds to the overall feeling within the viewer. His strokes are all seen, there is no attempt to hide stroke, or keep a clean surface like classical painting. There is some sense of line work and contour in the foreground creating a greater detail, but I feel it is just an accurate representation of environmental distortion and its affects as things become more blurry in the distance.
Monet took his personal feelings and moods, and transferred them into the Champ d’ Avoine , altering the techniques he used. “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” (Schapiro 180). Monet’s brushstrokes would change with the condition of his feelings. A festive holiday painting contained ecstatic, rapid brushstrokes, forceful and swift. There was little or no separation in time between the vision of the encounter with the object and its rendering on the spot (Schapiro 61). He had a degree of impulsiveness and freedom which was realized through correspondingly chaotic brushstrokes, but was held together by his firm touch and rhythms of execution which modeled the enthusiasm of the human world in movement (Schapiro 184).
The techniques Monet is most remembered for were his use of light and color in the Champ d’ Avoine . Monet was one of the first of the Impressionists to paint “en plein air”. “A craving for open-air light was the mainspring of Monet’s artistic development…Monet began by portraying the intensity of light by showing the contrast between bright light and dark shadow”(Taillander 86). As part of his impulsiveness, Monet refused to paint from memory. He said, “I paint only what I see”(qtd. in Taillander 76). “Sunshine was essential if Monet was to capture the true effects of light. He would stop painting and wait for a cloud to pass over the sun because it altered the intensity of the light and shadows”(Taillander 77). Monet’s use of color is as equally appreciated as his use of light effects, and the two go hand in hand with each other.
Even through Alberti, Leonardo, and Vassari would appreciate Monet’s hard work and unique style, it is in my opinion that they would have found this work of art lacking in many ways. Monet unlike Alberti, Leonardo, and Vassari, tried to move away from the classical style of painting. Monet believed in spontaneous painting. He believed by doing this he could capture a fresh image, which in his opinion would have been more realistic. Monet’s Champ d’ Avoine also had no religious meaning behind it. This painting just reflected Monet’s mood at the time, Unlike Leonardo’s The Virgin of the Rocks, were in it you could clearly pick out the mean focal point, and its religious meaning behind it. I think Vasari would have found Leonardo’s work more inspirational and creative than Monet’s Champ d’ Avoine. Vasari believed in art that evoked tremendous emotion, and gained knowledge when someone looked at it, and I don’t think that Monet’s painting does that in any fashion due to the lack of a central focal point in the painting.
In conclusion, even though the artist from the Renaissance period had a different style of creating great works of art. I think they would have found Claude Monet’s Champ d’ Avoine a piece of good art, and I think they would have found him to be an elite sprit, and posses an imagination that will never die.
Brenner, Carla. Weekends with the Impressionists. New York: Universe Publishing, 1997.
Mason, Antony. Famous Artists: Monet. New York: Barron’s Educational Series, 1995.
Schapiro, Meyer. Impressionism: Reflections and Perceptions. New York: George Braziller, 1997.
Spence, David. Monet and Impressionism. New York: Barron’s Educational Series, 1997.
Taillander, Yvon. Claude Monet. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1963.
Welton, Jude. Eyewitness Art: Impressionism. London: Dorling Kindersley, 1993.