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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

An Analysis of Monet's Paintings of Rouen Cathedral-Choosing The Motif

Why Choose the Cathedral and why concentrate on the Facade ?

Monet began the series in 1892 and finished his direct observations by 1893. Monet had rented temporary spaces opposite the cathedral for the purpose and made 30 paintings directly from the motif. These were then re-worked in his own studio during 1894. Of the 30 paintings 20 were chosen as the best of  the series and exhibited in Paris by his dealer.
The series was an attempt to paint the same object in different light conditions and at different times of day something that had begun to appear in Monet's work perhaps most famously in his series of  "Haystacks".
However where the haystacks are situated in a landscape, in the cathedral series Monet concentrates almost solely on the cathedral's facade. Why did Monet choose the cathedral and concentrate exclusively on the facade ?
Monet's interest lay in the natural light on an object rather than the object itself and he had developed the technique of small brushstokes in minor variations of colour to register the minor variations that are the result of light striking a form. In other words, a flat surface offers very few opportunities to modify colour. Those parts of the cathedral (sides,walls,roof) that tend to be flat are of no real interest to him. The facade (and perhaps only the facade) presents the kind of surface that lends itself perfectly to the technique Monet had already developed. Further the Gothic facade with its sculptures and carvings gives Monet an opportunity for his particular technique perhaps unparalled in any other building he could have chosen.