Claude Monet (1840-1926) – Sunny Haystacks Series

Haystacks is a title of a series of impressionist paintings by Claude Monet. The primary subjects of all of the paintings in the series are haystacks in the field after the harvest season. The series is known for its thematic use of repetition to show differences in perception  of sunlight across various times of day, seasons, and types of weather. The subjects were painted in fields near Monet’s home in Giverny, France.

Claude Monet was one of the first impressionist and for these paintings he painted them  en plein air which means in the open air (instead of in a studio). During the 1840’s this practice became more popular  because of the introduction of paint in tubes. Before this invention it had been more difficult to work outside of their studio because it was complicated with all the different paints that needed to be mixed by the artist and used straight away.

The story goes that Monet noticed the haystack on a casual walk. He requested that his stepdaughter Blanche Hoschedé bring him two canvases. He believed that one canvas for overcast weather and one for sunny weather would be sufficient. However, he realized he could not demonstrate the several distinct impressions on one or two canvases. As a result, his willing helper was quickly carting as many canvases as a wheelbarrow could hold. Things escalated quickly in other words :). This interest in the serial motif would continue for the rest of his career.

Beginning in the 1880s and 1890s, Monet focused on Haystacks and a number of other subjects. He often rose extremely early in the morning, at 3.30 a.m., to start working on one painting at dawn and then worked on other paintings with other light settings later that day, sometimes working on as many as ten or twelve paintings a day, each one depicting a slightly different aspect of light. He could do this for days weeks or even months with paintings until they were complete.

The paintings with the haystacks were a financial success. Famous painter Pissaro said that the canvases breathe contentment. The paintings aquickly solved for about 1000fr each. Monet was able to raise his prices in general and could finally buy off his house and land and started to construct a waterlily pond. He was finally get financial success instead of just being able to sustain himself. It’s not a coincedence that the haystacks that he painted between 1888 and 1891 were so popular with the general public. The industrial revolution that started in England in 1760 started to impact France in the 19th century. The effects of the industrial revolution werent always positive though. The industrial revolution led to urbanisation. People from the country side moved to the cities hoping to find work. People feared that the idyllic beautiful country side sooner or later would disappear because of the expanding. People often choose art for their houses that mean something to them; that reminds them of their roots and their core values. Monets paintings seemed to reassure people that these fields and haystacks would be preserved despite urbanisation and industrialisation. It idealised the rural lanscape as a retreat from the daily problems in urban cities, a place in harmony with nature. This particular series inspired other famous artists to pay more attention to light and to their palette. Kadinsky wrote in his memoirs about this series:

“What suddenly became clear to me was the unsuspected power of the palette, which I had not understood before and which surpassed my wildest dreams.”

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