On the Bank of the Seine, Bennecourt by Claude Monet

On the Bank of the Seine, Bennecourt is one of Claude Monet’s most famous paintings. This work of art that hangs in the galleries of the Art Institute of Chicago offers us a turning point in French Impressionism.

This piece is the turning-point for Claude Monet and for French impressionism because for the first time the artist was freeing himself from the confines of Academy standard (classical composition and form) to what has come to be known as plain air painting. The shift here is to move away from traditional forms of art that viewers are looking for and expecting. Monet here is now taking the viewers to a new plane in order to free them of the shackles of contours lines, perspective, and localized colors.

The scene here is of a lady sitting on the lawn above the banks of the River Seine. Her hat is next to her on the grass and both are covered in shade. To her left are two large trees that provide the shade that covers her and the lawn. The lady is looking away with her back turned towards us looking over the river. On the river there is a couple in a small boat rowing down the river. Across the banks of the river are a series of houses and farmland up behind the houses. The scene is rural not urban and offers fresh sunlight and air to both the subjects in the painting and the view. In the water you can see the reflection of the houses and landscape from across the river. You will note that you can very clearly see the reflection of the house in the water that is covered by the trees. Everything about this painting is fresh and relaxed.

The most important thing to grasp here is the change of form and composition. The forms are not delineated or put in a scheme of other events. The two trees to the right are crucial in that they offer support to the subject while at the same time they are tall, dark, and dominant. The boat that is on the banks anchors our eye to the lower portion of the painting so that we can keep attention to the subject. The hat offers a visual escape for there is now water next to the lady but the hat acts like a small craft positioned at here side.

Your feedback is welcome.

Stephen F. Condren – Artist

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