"Impression, Sunrise", Analysis and Interpretation: Meaning Behind Monet
by Daniel J. Durand
What does one say of Monet? Personally, I enjoy his works immensely. Monet has a tendency to be downright obsessive with some of his works, either out of a sense of perfectionism or joy for the subject I'm not certain. Monet also painted what I consider actual art; not mere drips and splashes of nasty clashing colors on paper, but real, true beauty such as “Impression, Sunrise.”
Now, on to the vivid, artistic description. A seascape, a watery blanket meeting the horizon. Monet doesn't use only one color, instead capturing depth and movement of the ripples across the surface, reflection of the golden sunrise, with a range of hues and shades. Puzzling stalks rise from the water, clustered in two groups, one towards the left, the other opposite, smaller than the first and grouped more closely together.
I pondered what these could be for some time, for while the stalks appeared to be masts of great sailing vessels, there were no boats beneath them. Perhaps they were actually trees, and being an impressionist, Monet was vague in how they were painted. These stalks are also quite important features, despite the vagueness about them, as they create a sort of path drawing the eye up towards the top left quadrant of the canvas, where the viewer is suddenly jerked toward the right, to the bright sun just above the horizon line.
The sunlight is another key feature, as it could be either morning or evening based on the color and angle of the sun. This gives the painting, in my opinion, an air of mystery. However, upon closer inspection, I noticed a fog permeating the seascape, which would suggest the sun is rising in the morning, not setting, thus rendering my previous sentence moot, as there is now a definite time and place. The feeling of mystery, contrary to the new knowledge of time, is only made more prevalent due to the fog.
Finally, I take note of the sun's reflection on the water, directly this time as opposed to viewing it as part of the whole ensemble. The color of the reflection contrasts quite nicely with that of the water, tying the painting together in an aesthetically pleasing fashion. Just next to this echo of sunlight floats a dark figure in a rowboat, standing tall as he views the scene ahead, back turned toward the viewer. Could the figure be sinister in nature, or is the silhouette effect merely a result of the lighting?
All of these features, each with their own point and purpose, ties in to the rest of the painting somehow. As my eye wandered from the rowboat on the water, I stood back and took in the entire seascape again. Perhaps I am merely seeing things that are not there, or which have no significance, but the entire piece seems to follow shapes. The sky is an arc from left to right, sweeping up as it moves to the side. The clusters of stalks are triangular, and the waves are colored in sections. If these parts do indeed have significance, I believe they are to aid in shifting the viewer's gaze throughout the painting. If this was truly Monet's intention, he was quite clever indeed, almost conniving in his work.