The Bridge at Argenteuil, 1874


From about ten feet away, Monet's brushstrokes merge to give a compelling view of the striking net and amusement buffers that have drawn tourists to Argenteuil. Closer, however, each swab is different from its color and the scene dissolves into a mosaic of color - superb, unmixed tones of blue, red, green, yellow. In the trees, thicker paint is applied with denser, shorter strokes. The figures on the sailing boat are only shown with ghostly lines in a dusty blue. The women quarreling loudly nearby are shown by sheer shorthand.

In the early years of Impressionism, including Monet and Renoir, others tried to gain the fleeting effects of light and the atmosphere from the landscape and to write off their sensory impressions directly and quickly. Monet recommended to American artist Lilla Cabot Perry, "When you go out to paint, try to forget what is at work, what is in front of you, a tree, a house, a field or something. Just think here is one little square of blue, here an elongated strip of pink, here a strip of yellow, and paint it. The exact color and shape until it gives your own impression of the scene in front of you. "


Courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, Washington

Claude Monet | The Bridge at Argenteuil