On the banks of the Seine, Benecourt by Claude Monet
On the banks of the Seine, Bennecourt is one of Claude Monet’s most famous paintings. This work of art, which hangs in the galleries of the Art Institute of Chicago, offers us a turning point in French Impressionism.
This work was a turning point for Claude Monet and for French Impressionism, because for the first time the artist broke free from the constraints of the Academy standard (classical composition and form) to what became known as plein air painting. The change here is to move away from the traditional art forms that viewers seek and expect. Here, Monet takes viewers to a new plane to free them from the shackles of contour lines, perspective, and localized colors.
The scene here is of a lady seated on the lawn above the banks of the Seine. Her hat is beside her on the grass and both are covered in shadow. To her left are two large trees that provide the shade that covers her and the lawn. The lady looks away with her back to us and looks over the river. On the river there is a couple in a small boat rowing down the river. Across the banks of the river is a row of houses and farmland behind the houses. The scene is rural, not urban, and offers fresh sunlight and air for both the subjects in the picture and the view. In the water you can see the reflection of the houses and the landscape on the other side of the river. You will notice that you can very clearly see the reflection of the house in the water which is covered by the trees. Everything in this picture is fresh and calm.
The most important thing to understand here is the change of shape and composition. The forms are not outlined or placed in a scheme of other events. The two trees on the right are crucial as they offer support to the subject while being tall, dark and dominant. The boat on the shore draws our gaze to the bottom of the picture so that we can keep our attention on the subject. The hat offers a visual escape as there is now water next to the lady, but the hat acts as a small ship positioned on that side.
Your opinion is welcome.
Steven F. Condren – Artist
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