Impressionism plays a critical part in the nineteenth century’s changing representation of the painting scene. At the hands of Pierre Auguste Renoir, Camille Pissarro, Claude Monet, and others, this original movement (not called Impressionism until the late 1800’s) was initially rejected by many and later embraced by society. Through the dense London haze, we see Monet’s vision, the Charing Cross railway bridge, where a plume of smoke signals the passing of a train and the ghostliest outline of the home of Parliament emerges from the fog. This examination of bright and atmospheric variations increasingly affirms itself as the leading principle in Monet’s paintings in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. In London, he concentrated especially on describing confusion and the way the effects of light shine through it. Monet’s artwork, Charing Cross Bridge, brouillard, 1902, reveals both the influences and the challenges of the past as well as revealing how impressionism represented the turning point in the process of contemporary art. Monet as well as other artists were influenced by many factors, including social and cultural events that were taking place at the time.
Impressionism is the nineteenth century art movement characterized by comparatively small and slender, yet obvious brushstrokes, wide composition, emphasis on the portrayal of light and its changing tones, ordinary subject matter, inclusion of change as a critical component of human knowledge and experience, and strange visual angles. The impressionist movement was the rejection of conventional artistic techniques. With Impressionism, the aim was to portray colours and pictures the way they were seen, not the way the artists were instructed to create them. Aspects of impressionism include the use of gleaming spots of lighting, colour in shadow and dissolving strong outlines. Instead of painting in a studio, the Impressionists found that they could quickly capture the momentary effects by working in front of their subjects.
Claude Monet, one of the pioneers of impressionism, was told to have been hit by London’s ever-changing conditions when he visited the island assets in 1870. He was particularly drawn the city’s combination of confusing fog, pollution and lights. Monet was intrigued by the London fog and the effects it had on how people saw things. Over several years Monet traveled to London to paint a series of paintings, thirty-seven in total, of Charing Cross Bridge. Painting quickly and often from different angles, each one slightly different than the other. Along with the constant fog, pollution played a large role in how objects were perceived. With the Industrial Revolution in full gear, the pollution along with the regular fog created an always changing scene for Monet. In his painting you can feel how the fog and pollution blanketed the landscape and only suggest the overall image.
Impressionism was not always accepted by society. People had predetermined ideas of what art/paintings should look like. The movement arose with a set of Paris based artists in the 1870’s and 1880’s. Monet, and others, works were often rejected at the conservative Salon de Paris. Monet’s painting of Charred Cross Bridge, brouillard, 1902, appeared unfinished and rushed. Unlike his predecessors that provided images with smooth strokes and plenty of detail. His painting lacked the qualities that society expected to see in art. The Charing Cross Bridge goes against everything that people wanted to see. No one image is clearly defined but, yet the viewer is still able to identify the scene. This original rejection forced artists to form the Anonymous Society of Painters, Sculptors, and Engravers and organized independent exhibitions to break from the Salon’s traditions. The Impressionists completed paintings often suggested to the viewer that they were not finished, they appeared rushed, that artists would dash off to preserve an idea of what to paint more carefully at a later date. Impressions were not meant to be sold but, were meant to be quick paintings/sketches to be completed at a later date.
Transportation greatly improved at the end of the nineteenth century. London was booming, and it was tremendously transformed by the arrival of the railway system. Metropolitan railroads permitted the growth of suburbs in neighbouring counties from which middle class and rich people would travel to many places. The development of the railway resulted in the construction of new and improved bridges including the Charing Cross Railroad Bridge in the center of London. On later trips, he managed to use these components in a series that included Charing Cross Bridge. Monet created several paintings of this bridge represented from slightly different angles and different times of the day. Monet enjoyed painting images of ordinary things. The images included not only of bridges and trains but also of The Saint-Lazare Station. This allowed Monet to further develop his technique of how steam from the trains affected the images around him. We can clearly see his attempt at creating this dreamy interaction between the fog, pollution and steam in Charing Cross Bridge, 1902.
Impressionists were concerned about the lighting of any object in a painting. Claude Monet’s pieces represent the distinctive impressionist approach through its use of lighting with limited amount of colour yet where there should be dark, Monet recreates it by adding light. For instance, in a scene filled with dark foliage, Monet would utilize lighter greens in the setting which would in turn, make the painting lighter overall. In Charing Cross Bridge, 1902 he utilizes a variety of light colours to allow the bridge and towers to stand out without utilizing dark colours excessively.
Oil paints are linked to permanence. They are the best for demonstrating good detail and the contrast between light and dark. Although Charing Cross Bridge, 1902 lacks these qualities, Monet’s use of oil paints utilizes the paints ability to refract the light through its many layers of, creating a luminous appearance of depth in the painting. Oil paints are durable and stay solid over time – many pieces focused from the Renaissance to Post-Impressionism are painted in oils. Oil paint is commonly mixed with linseed oil, but because of the time and place that Monet worked, he frequently mixed his paints with poppy-seed oil. Since Claude Monet used the method of impasto, using poppy-seed oil made his colours thinner as well as made the paint dry slower. Monet utilized oil on wood for Charing Cross Bridge. He applied a lot of paint in layers so that he could produce a huge body of colour. He would also add more oil per layer of paint then beneath for proper drying. If each layer had less oil, the end result would break and peel.
Europe provided painters with a constant supply of changing subject matter. Countries and cities were easy to get to; therefore, artists could travel to different location to further master their craft. After the siege of Paris, immediate action was taken to reconstruct the parts of the city that had been destroyed. Painters took this as an opportunity to paint the changes in the land, adding structures that hadn’t been there before and painting at different times of the day, as the light would reflect upon buildings and objects in particular ways. Impressionists, such as Pissarro, began painting the renovated city, using their new styles to depict its boulevards, gardens, and buildings. While some focused on the cityscape, others turned to the people who lived in the city. The population of Paris exploded post-war and gave the artists a tremendous amount of material for their scenes. Characteristics of these scenes mixed the social classes in public places.
This rapid change also had an impact on the artists in the way they painted. These artists were incapable of producing properly composed and finished pieces/paintings. In order to capture the ever-changing effects of light on the canvas, the artists painted rapidly, analyzing tone and colour at the expense of composition and drawing. This caused traditional subject matter to downgrade and attention shifted. Artists became dissatisfied early in their careers with the traditional emphasis on depicting historical and mythological subjects. In efforts to reproduce immediate visual impressions as if they were perceived by the eye, they abandoned the use of greys and blacks in their shadows. Monet’s Charing Cross Bridge eludes the use of greys and blacks and relies more on blues and colours that would have been reflected on the bridge and towers.
Claude Monet and Charing Cross Bridge, 1902 are clearly results of the influences and challenges of the time. Claude Monet obviously was influence and intrigued by what he saw and how it changed over time. The series of the Charing Cross Bridge and Saint-Lazare Station are clear examples of this. The introduction of new materials was introduced, and different ways of painting were constantly being challenged. Monet painted at a time of many changes and challenges. The Industrial age also provide Monet with endless opportunities to paint new ideas. Also, Society had its mind set on what art should be, making impressionism difficult to accept for many. But as with other art periods people learn to accept and appreciate ‘the new’. Monet and impressionism opened the door for other artist to continue to challenge the norm, creating new art styles and opportunities for artists.
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