This month’s featured painting is The Boat at Giverny by Claude Monet. I thought of this painting as I put the finishing touches on Boats at Wynnum. I remember first seeing it in a documentary about Monet’s life, I, Claude Monet, and being captivated by the sea of greens and blues that filled the screen.
(Click here to download a higher resolution photo of the painting.)
Brief details about the painting:
- Oil on canvas.
- 97 x 130 cm (38 x 51 inches).
- Completed 1887.
- Location: Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France.
Use this as an opportunity to test your ability to analyze master paintings. In the comments below, share what you think are the top 3 most important aspects of the painting. These could relate to areas such as composition, color, value, progress, brushwork, subject, or symbolism. Once you have done that, you can compare your thoughts with my own in the drop-down below.
Click here to see my thoughts.
- The shoreline is represented by a vague, soft edge on the left-hand side. It tells us where water meets land but is not so pronounced that it disrupts the flow of the painting.
Tip: Hard and soft edges are powerful tools. You can use them to help the viewer navigate your painting. Hard edges tend to pull attention. They are like exclamation points in your painting. Soft edges allow our eyes to transition through the painting.
- Notice the subtle color differences between the land, boat, and people and their reflections. The reflections are more compressed in terms of color. The lights are not as light, the darks are not as dark, and the colors are not as rich. This is a good rule of thumb for painting reflections. The reflections are also a touch cooler in temperature (the colors lean closer to blue).
- The girls are simplified. Monet rendered them with just enough detail and no more. This helps them “fit in” with the rest of the painting in terms of style. It also weakens them as a focal point, making it more of a genre painting than a typical portrait.
- There’s a striking contrast between the lights and darks. See the grayscale and notan below.
- The white dresses appear white, but they are mainly painted with grays and tinted colors. Painting the white dresses with too much white would be an easy mistake to make here. Our eyes can trick us into using colors much lighter than needed. This is known as color constancy. James Gurney has a good post on it here.
- Notice the structure of the shadows on and caused by the boat. There’s a dark outline around the bottom of the boat. There are areas of reflected light bouncing up into the shadows. The boat’s cast shadow gets weaker as it gets further away. These are fundamental details that we don’t have much room to play with. Learn them and do your best to get them right.
- Monet painted the boat with broken, impressionist brushwork. This goes against the boat’s rigid and geometric nature, but it works in the context of the painting. This is one of the topics of this month’s training report.
- The painting follows an analogous color scheme with all the greens and blues. There are also a few orange, red, and yellow accents that inject warmth into the painting. Analogous color schemes are typically pleasant and calming to the eyes.