Analysis of Monet’s Painting Technique

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Monet’s use of color along with use of intricate brush strokes and compositionis outstanding. The vast variations of brush strokes and color placementtechniques are what make his work so unique and individual. Grand Canal, Venice,1908 is a prime example of Monet’s talents in these areas. The structure of thepainting is very loose. There are few hard lines in the composition thatrepresents solid structure. The curves in conjunction with the shades of coloras well as light usage give the piece a mirage-like effect. It is easy toimagine Monet’s vantage point while he was painting the picture by the way thecomposition is set up. One can tell he was looking towards the buildings on theother side of water because it’s obvious that the building are being reflectedas well as the wooden poles sticking out of the water. It is quite evident thatMonet is observing a sunset and that he is painting quickly to capture the fulleffect of light during this short period of the day with the study of lightbeing the main focus in this work. Shadow also plays a large part in the make upthe painting. Monet uses an even tonality of blues, lavenders, oranges and pinksto create the buildings across the water, thus showing the sunlight reflectingoff the sides of them. It’s quite amazing how he uses many different colors tocreate one large color. For instance, in the sky he uses a mixture of greens,pinks, oranges and blues to create the feeling of dusk as the sun slowly sets tothe right of the picture. In the far edge of the water he uses greens and blueswith a hint of lavender here and there to show the darkness of the water behindthe buildings where the sunlight isn’t reaching. When the water comes closer tothe bottom of the painting there is a heavier use of oranges, yellows and pinkscreating a golden mirror-like effect reflecting the light coming off of thebuildings. At this point it is hard to determine if the sunlight is actuallystriking the surface of the water or if it is just the reflection of the sun offof the buildings alone. Once one looks at the poles sticking out of the waterit’s easier to determine if the sun is hitting the water or not. It must behitting a good portion of the water because only the closest pole is dark, withno sun hitting it, but the poles which are farther away have light, then againit may just be the reflection of the light off of the buildings. This is why thepainting has such a mirage-like effect because the viewer cannot really decipherwhat he or she is supposed to perceive the work as. The actual form of thebuilding is less evident due to the brilliant atmosphere of the painting makingit quite clear that Monet’s main concern with this piece, as well as many of hisothers, is light. How he uses color to express his concern for light isoutstanding. In this particular piece Monet uses sketch-like brush strokes tocreate the main objects of the scene. The water consists of numerous horizontalbrush stokes in varying color to create the look of reflection. The buildingsare more blended and the use of impasto is less evident mainly in the sky. Thesurface of the painting from the upper parts of the building to the top of thecanvas gets smoother as the eye rises. The layering of the colors in the waterand heavier strokes of paint allow Monet to create the reflectiveness he istrying to accomplish in order to portray the time of day. The use of smallerstrokes and lighter colors over the heavier strokes and darker colorsstrengthens the effect of the sunlight on the water. For the sky Monet blendsthe colors together and uses very light shades of them to create the pastel,soft, late day effect. For the buildings he uses a more erratic technique,blending less than the sky. He tends to follow through with the stroke and useless paint to cover more area at a time, unlike the fast, thicker strokes usedin the water. Monet is a genius when it comes to using many different colors andbrush strokes to create one specific tone of a color and create specific effectswith those colors. For example, from a distance the largest pole coming out ofthe water seems to be mainly brownish-blue color but up close it is actually aconglomeration of purples, greens, reds, oranges and even some black. The sameholds true in the rest of the painting. The water is especially intriguing.

Monet uses such a vast array of colors mixed together to create the reflectiveaspect he is trying to portray. It looks as if he started with the darker colorsalong the edge of the buildings working his way toward the bottom of the canvas.

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The brush strokes look very quick and abrupt as if he was painting hastily. Oncethe bluish tones of the water were established Monet continues to work his waytowards the bottom of the canvas using layers. He moves into greens andcontinues to layer with lighter and lighter colors working in conjunction withthe colors used to create the shadow and light on the buildings above. The pinksand oranges begin to play a key role in portraying the reflection in the toplayers on paint. The final layers of paint also tend to be thicker than therest. This gives the impression (no pun intended) that this portion of thepainting may have been rushed, or maybe even completed at a later time due tothe fact that Monet was trying to capture the effects of light at a particulartime of day. When one looks much closer it looks as if the actual reflection wascaptured at the time of the painting on the underneath layers of paint. The moreI look at the painting I begin to believe that Monet went over the paintingagain adding the thicker, smaller strokes of varying color in order to accentthe rest of the painting. These particular details seem to occur only in thewater and seem to have taken some undetermined length of time to think about it.

However, the length of time taken seems to be greater than them amount of timeMonet had to paint since the time of day he is working with doesn’t allow muchtime for thinking. These particular techniques seem to be very effective andappropriate for the subject. Monet is basically painting a study of light inthis piece. The varying brush strokes and wildly variable use of color bringsout the effect of light in this piece magnificently. Though he is using alimited number of colors he can still manage to create a specific tone of colorwith what he is using. It seems as if Monet is trying to get across to theviewer what it is really like to witness a sunset on the Grande Canal and howfascinating the actual colors are. The view seems to lack a certain”crispness” though as if the air was heavy or moisture filled, in turnmaking the building across from him less detailed allowing Monet to focus on theaspect of shadow in the composition instead of being distracted by the detail ofthe buildings. The same can be said about the water. The thick moist air seemsto act a prism allowing Monet to scatter the different colors all over thecanvas, still making it known that it is water, especially by implementing thereflective techniques which he has used so greatly. I think that Monet had apassion for studying light and it’s effects with the use of color and consideredthis particular viewpoint an excellent opportunity to further his studies. Ibelieve he enjoyed exploring reflections on water and maybe wanted to encourageothers to do the same, not necessarily exploring reflections on water but toexplore anything which he/she may have a passion for. With Monet in particular,his juxtaposition of complimentary colors allowed him to gain the effect he wasgoing for in his study of reflections, especially in the Grand Canal, Venice,1908.

BibliographyPete Sanchez Art History – J. Russell 04-21-00 Claude Monet Grand Canal,Venice, 1908 Museum of Fine Arts Oil on canvas Bequest of Alexander Cochrane,1919 19.171

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