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Claude Monet and the Masterpieces Painted in Series

Claude Monet, Haystacks, end of Summer, 1891, Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France.

Artists' Stories

Claude Monet and the Masterpieces Painted in Series

Claude Monet was famous for his series of paintings. He repeatedly painted the same subject in different lights, at different hours of the day, and in various weather and seasons. This practice began in the 1880s and continued until the end of his life in 1926. Here you will find an overview of his greatest painting series.

Haystacks

Claude Monet, Haystacks, end of Summer, 1891, Musée d'Orsay, Paris, France.
Claude Monet, Haystacks, end of Summer, 1891, Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France.

Haystacks was the first series he exhibited. In 1891 the Galerie Durand-Ruel (owned by the famous impressionist Marchant) exhibited 15 paintings from this series. These paintings were an important breakthrough both in Monet’s career and in the history of French art. Their novelty resulted from both their subject matter and the concept of the series intended to be seen together.

Rouen Cathedral

Claude Monet, Rouen Cathedral, Facade (sunset), Harmony in gold and blue, 1892-1894, Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris, France.
Claude Monet, Rouen Cathedral, Facade (sunset), Harmony in gold and blue, 1892-1894, Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris, France.

Twenty-six views of Rouen Cathedral is probably the best-known series by Monet. Originally produced in 1892 and 1893, Monet later reworked them in his studio in 1894. Monet rented spaces across the street from the cathedral where he set up temporary studios for this purpose.

Poplars

Claude Monet, The Four Trees, (Four Poplars on the Banks of the Epte River near Giverny), 1891, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, USA.
Claude Monet, The Four Trees, (Four Poplars on the Banks of the Epte River near Giverny), 1891, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, USA.

This series was created in the summer and fall of 1891. The trees were in a marsh along the banks of the Epte River, a few kilometers upstream from Monet’s home and studio. To reach his floating painting studio that was moored in place, he went by a small boat up the nearby waterway to where it joined the mainstream. There is an interesting story regarding these poplars – the trees actually belonged to the commune of Limetz that put them up for auction before Monet had completed all of his paintings. At a certain point, Monet was forced into buying the trees because he still wasn’t finished with his paintings. After he finished the series he sold the trees back to the lumber merchant who wanted them.

Venice

Claude Monet, San Giorgio Maggiore at Dusk, 1908–1912, National Museum of Cardiff, Cardiff, Wales, UK. Art UK.
Claude Monet, San Giorgio Maggiore at Dusk, 1908–1912, National Museum of Cardiff, Cardiff, Wales, UK. Art UK.

“Although I am enthusiastic about Venice, and though I’ve started a few canvases, I’m afraid I will only bring back beginnings that will be nothing else but souvenirs for me”, Monet wrote to the art seller Gaston Bernheim. Luckily he eventually painted 37 canvases featuring a dozen different views, taken within a short distance from one another. These are now among his most popular works.

Houses of Parliament

Claude Monet, The Houses of Parliament, Sunset, 1903, National Gallery of Art Washington
Claude Monet, The Houses of Parliament, Sunset, 1903, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, USA.

Monet painted this series of nearly a hundred views in the fall of 1899 and the early months of 1900 and 1901 during stays in London. All of the series’ paintings share the same viewpoint from Monet’s window or a terrace at St Thomas’ Hospital overlooking the Thames. However he painted them during different times of the day and in varying weather conditions. Look at this mist!

Charing Cross Bridge

Claude Monet, Charing Cross Bridge, London, 1899-1901, Saint Louis Art Museum
Claude Monet, Charing Cross Bridge, London, 1899-1901, Saint Louis Art Museum, St.Louis, Missouri, USA.

Mist also features in the Charing Cross Bridge series, painted between 1899 and 1904. Out of the total 37 canvases he only finished 12 while in London. Meanwhile the artist took the rest back to his Giverny studio for completion.

Water Lilies

Monet's series paintings: Claude Monet, Reflections of Clouds on the Water-Lily Pond, c. 1920, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, USA.
Monet’s series paintings: Claude Monet, Reflections of Clouds on the Water-Lily Pond, c. 1920, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, USA.

This is the largest of Monet’s series. During the last thirty years of his life, 250 oil paintings depicting Monet’s flower garden at Giverny were the main focus of his artistic production. In 1908, Monet destroyed 15 of his Water Lilies right before a planned exhibition at the Durand-Ruel gallery. Apparently he was so unhappy with the paintings that he decided to ruin them rather than have the work go on public display. It is also interesting that Monet painted many of the works in this series while suffering from cataracts.


Read more about Claude Monet:

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