“I am following Nature without being able to grasp her.”
That is a quote by Claude Monet and it gives a perfect example of what the Impressionism style is all about. Impressionist’s painters work to create a fleeting moment, an impression, within their artwork. The characteristics of Impressionism include sketchy loose brush strokes and lines with an emphasis on true depictions of light in its changing abilities. Impressionism is very beautiful to me because when I look at these paintings I feel in the moment with them; almost like the picture is within a transitory moment, as if it is moving. I feel like this is exactly what Claude Monet meant in his quote about not being able to grasp Nature- she is always growing and changing to the next moment and that is exactly what Impressionist’s tried to grasp within their paintings.
As I was researching Impressionist painters and their artwork I couldn’t help but to notice that there were many paintings of sailboats and the ocean. This caught my attention right away because I grew up in Juneau, Alaska and throughout my childhood I spent a lot of time on boats and the water. The sailboats especially caught my attention because my Grandfather owns a sailboat and he used to take us on weeklong sail boating trips in the summer time; it was always something my siblings and I looked forward to. I remember early mornings with the sun coming up over the mountains with the misty ocean breeze bringing the sting of salt water in the air. It seems only fitting to use these stunning depictions of sailboats here.
Claude Monet (1840-1926) painted Impression, Sunrise which led the way for Impressionist artists and is the painting that started this incredible style. Impression, Sunrise was painted, oil on canvas, in 1872 of the harbor of Le Havre in France. This painting shows a harbor at sunrise in a very creative way with loose brush strokes, broken lines, and pure unblended colors that leave the viewer imagining the real thing. You can see the first boat with a couple men and an oar, but as you look past them you can barely make out two more boats and a harbor, but not with as much detail. The dark lines on the bottom of the painting remind me more of fish swimming in the water instead of waves. The sun and sky are bright and warm feeling, just like a real sunrise would make you feel. Monet captured this moment beautifully.
Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) painted Regatta at Argenteuil, oil on canvas, in 1874. This is another beautiful sailboat piece done in Impression style. Looking at the painting you can barely make out the sailboats and the sails look more apart of the sky than the boats. I love how Renoir blended the bottom of the boats into the water. The way he cast the shadows of the sails in the water with the ripples make it look like the boat is one with the water. The people on the shore seem to have more detail as you can make out their hats and heads from the rest of their bodies. Off to the mid left of the painting you can make out a couple in a little boat; you can see the man dressed in black and the woman in white, almost as if they are waving to the people on the shore- maybe I’m seeing things. I find it interesting that even in an Impression style painting you will still find flags painted at the top of the masts of the sailboats.
Now let’s take a look at the great Impressionist, John Singer Sargent (1856-1925). He created Venice, Sailing Boat in watercolor, circa 1903. I love the raw way Singer captured this moment. This painting has a bit more detail, but it still leaves much to the imagination. The right side of the painting seems to have the most detail as the left has lots of globs of paint. It seems like the viewer is on a dock and there is a person walking from the left. I love the way the man on the bow of the boat looks like he was dripped into life in the painting. This painting is much darker than other Impressionist paintings; it reminds me of the many overcast days that I’ve spent in Juneau on a boat.
There are many styles to compare to Impressionism, but I am going to compare it to Romanticism. Before the Impressionist’s there were the Romantic’s and they strived to elicit emotions and feelings within their art. Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) was a famous Romantic artist. His piece, Yacht Approaching the Coast, was painted circa 1840-1845, oil on canvas. At first glance you may mistake this as an Impressionism piece of artwork, but it is not. If you look closer it is more refined and there aren’t dabs of colors and sketchy loose brush strokes as you would see in the Impression style. It is similar to the Impressionism style because of the blended bright colors, as if it is a transitory moment. It almost feels like there is a hole in the painting and everything in the picture is being pulled to the center. I think that Turner was trying to make the viewer feel the sense of the approach of the sailboat by creating this hole. To me this painting is very comparable to Monet’s Impression, Sunrise because the bright and dark colors offset each other within the paintings.
Another Romantic artist, named Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840), created a beautiful painting of a sailboat circa 1827/28, oil on canvas, and called it Seascape in the Moonlight. This is a very intricate piece of artwork. I love the way that Friedrich has the clouds being pulled to the left of the painting as if the wind is carrying them away to bring the moonlight out for the sailboat. There is something so beautiful about the way a boat feels out in the open water in the moonlight. I think that Friedrich captured this passing moment brilliantly. The bright white from the moonlight perfectly offsets the outline of the boat and brings the viewer into this moment so well.
Now let’s jump ahead to the here and now. Leonid Afremov (born 1955 – ) is an up and coming artist from Belarus. He uses a very creative style when creating art, he doesn’t use paint brushes – he uses a palette-knife. His work is very distinctive with the incredible colors that he uses and gentle style. Afremov created Sailing, which is oil on canvas, circa 2011. I chose this painting because it reminds me of Impressionism; from the bold blended colors to the strong fascination to capture a fleeting moment this piece of art is one to behold. Also because there looks like there are people in the boat, but they don’t have much detail to them. I love the way Afremov colored the sails to show the sunlight shining through them. It looks like a storm is coming on from the left of the painting with the darker colors and blues that he uses in the sky and water.
From Romanticism, Impressionism, to the here and now there is always something to contrast, but I think that comparing artwork is a great way to understand how it has evolved through the years. There will always be artist’s changing to create new styles, but they will be growing from something in the past. That is why it is good to understand the many styles of artwork. To wrap things up I just had to add a picture of my Grandfather’s sailboat, the Seabird. Here is a picture of the Seabird in front of my Grandparent’s house in Auke Bay, Alaska. Enjoy.
deviantART. Sailing- Leonid Afremov. N.p, 2014. Web. 25 Mar. 2014. http://leonidafremov.deviantart.com/art/SAILING-LEONID-AFREMOV-253355218
RoGallary. Leonid Afremov, Belerusian (1955 – ). N.p, 2013. Web. 25 Mar. 2014. http://rogallery.com/Afremov_Leonid/afremov-biography.htm
Tate. Yacht Approaching the Coast. N.p, 2012. Web. 25 Mar. 2014. http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-yacht-approaching-the-coast-n04662
The Metropolitan Museum of Art.Auguste Renoir (1841–1919).N.p, 2013.Web. 24 Mar. 2014. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/augu/hd_augu.htm
The Metropolitan Museum of Art.Claude Monet (1840–1926). N.p, 2013.Web. 24 Mar. 2014. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/cmon/hd_cmon.htm
Wikigallery. Seascape in the Moonlight. N.p, 2014. Web. 25 Mar. 2014. http://www.wikigallery.org/wiki/painting_337213/Caspar-David-Friedrich/Seascape-in-the-Moonlight-(ca.-1835)
Wikipedia. Impressionism.N.p, 2014.Web. 24 Mar. 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impressionism
Wikipedia. Impression, Sunrise.N.p, 2014.Web. 24 Mar. 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impression,_Sunrise
Wikipedia Commons. File: Pierre-Auguste Renoir 121.jpg. N.p, 2014. Web. 24 Mar. 2014. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pierre-Auguste_Renoir_121.jpg