Claude Monet – The Regatta At Argenteuil

The best works of Monet, from a standpoint of strong design, are not always his most original or typical, or the ones by which his greatest influence has been exerted. His most original contribution is the rendering of the effects of sun-light on the surfaces of colored objects out of doors. In addition, he develops a technique suited to that purpose : large strokes of contrasting color side by side; or superimposed but not quite mixed, so that the eye at a distance feels them as a pervasive, iridescent vibration. These two things he did so well and so originally in the early seventies as to bring about a revolution in the art of painting. But as a rule, he was content to specialize on them alone, and to neglect three-dimensional design, either dissolving all shapes in a luminous mist of color, or choosing some ready-made, simple pattern on which to embroider his surface qualities. Occasionally he works out an original deep-space design of some force: in the Gare St. Lazare (Salle Caillebotte) the sloping roof of the railway station, the tracks and distant puffs of steam, build up a firm though delicate arrangement in space: But such achievements did not seem to interest him, and through most of his life, until the end, he was content to specialize on surface-reflections, either embroidering them on some ready-made, simple pattern in the scene at hand, or dissolving all shapes in a luminous mist of color. In the views of the Cathedral of Rouen, here and in the Salle Caillebotte, the element of design is contributed by the architectural facade itself, on whose surface Monet spread the sun-tints of various hours of the day. In a series of Water-lilies (Camondo) he also takes a ready-made pattern of a bridge over water, and varies it only in surface-color.

A picture like The Regatta at Argenteuil is thoroughly typical of his dominant interest, although less rich in texture than some of his later works. It shows clearly, even in black and white, the emphasis on sunlight reflections, the large, sketchy brush-strokes, the vagueness of objects, chiefly at the right, and the lack of organized design. The use of the broken color technique is chiefly at the right, in the houses, trees and shore and their reflections. The more than natural intensity of color everywhere, especially in the red houses, and the use of colored shadows, mostly violet and blue, are other qualities characteristic of Monet and the impressionists generally.