Rouen Cathedral West Facade by Claude Monet, oil on canvas 1894, is a landscape painting from the artist’s best known series, the 26 views of the famous, landmark French church. Bathed in the soft light of day, the massive structure soars upward, filling the picture plane of the tall, vertical canvas. Quickly applied brushstrokes and dabs of color capture the effects of light, color and atmosphere, capturing a fleeting moment in time that seem to dematerialize the stone edifice in light and color. Cool blue shadows in the church spires, arches and windows contrast with the near complementary warm, neutral, yellow and orange tones catching the bright light of the sun. The Rouen Cathedral series of paintings epitomize the art of the French Impressionist school, and remain one of its most evocative, beloved and famous examples today.
Claude Monet (1840 - 1926) was a founder and chief driving force behind the French Impressionist school of painting. Born in Paris, Monet studied with Eugene Boudin, who taught the basics of oil painting and plein-air (open air) easel painting, and later with painter Charles Gleyre, eventually befriending fellow Impressionists Manet, Renoir, Bazille and others. Rejected by the Paris Salon and other venues of the 19th century academic establishment, the Impressionists painted directly from nature, capturing fleeting moments in time, in bright, broken color and small, rapid brushstrokes. Monet lived and studied in London and Holland, producing many paintings, until the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874, where his painting Impression: Sunrise gained notoriety and earned the group its famous moniker. Following the death of his child and of his first wife Camille, Monet settled in Giverny, where increasing success allowed him to establish a home and studio surrounded by elaborate gardens. Monet painted many landscapes, including garden scenes and his famous Cathedral series, with increasing concerns for light, color and atmosphere, with a concern for color and shapes that in his older age bordered on a kind of abstraction, making him one of the most beloved painters of the modern era.