ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Monet's Series Paintings - Stacks of Wheat

Updated on August 11, 2017
makingamark profile image

Katherine loves art history and visits art galleries and museums on a regular basis. She also writes exhibition reviews.

Find out more about Monet's Haystacks Series

Monet's first set of paintings completed as a series were devoted to stacks of wheat in the field next to his home at Giverny.

Find out more about Monet's haystacks series (sometimes called grain stacks) - including links to where you can see them in art galleries and museums.

For an explanation of the differences between haystacks and grain stacks see below.

Haystacks at Sunset, Frosty Weather by Claude Monet
Haystacks at Sunset, Frosty Weather by Claude Monet | Source

Why Monet painted stacks of wheat

Exploring light and colour and a symbol of rural French countryside

Monet was obsessed with discovering the colour of light at different times of the day.

He needed static objects to be able to record the same scene in different seasons and at different times of day.

The haystacks in the field near his home provided him with the subject matter to create a series of paintings.

The colour and look of the haystacks varied according to the time of day they were painted, the season and month they were painted in and how the light shone on the haystack at the time.

Wheatstacks, Snow Effect, Morning, Claude Monet " Getty Museum video

Stacks of Wheat (End of Summer) - painted by Claude Monet in 1897;  oil on canvas, 60 × 100 cm (23.6 × 39.4 in). Current location: Art Institute of Chicago
Stacks of Wheat (End of Summer) - painted by Claude Monet in 1897; oil on canvas, 60 × 100 cm (23.6 × 39.4 in). Current location: Art Institute of Chicago | Source

Most of the haystacks were located within 2 miles of his home and most were about 15-20 feet high (4.5 - 6 metres) - although in 1890 a particularly large stack was erected close to the wall of Monet's property.

This one stack might have been what prompted this series of paintings.

The colour that the haystack is perceived to be by Monet is wholly determined by which colours are absorbed by the haystack. What's left is the the colour that cannot be absorbed - and that's the colour of the haystack

Traditionally, it's been thought that the motifs in Monet's series paintings were just objects which he used to explore how light, color, and form changed over the course of the day and in different weather conditions.

However there is now a view that Monet was equally interested in the meaning and significance of the motifs themselves. Stacks of wheat are traditional symbols of rural traditions - in a time of increasing industrialisation and urbanisation. They also symbolise the land's fertility, the local farmers' material wealth, and the region's prosperity.

"For me a landscape hardly exists at all as a landscape, because its appearance is constantly changing; but it lives by virtue of its surroundings, the air and the light which vary continually."

— Claude Monet

Les meules de Monet

More about Monet's series - the wheat stacks - a Making A Mark project

I did a project looking at the background behind the series of paintings of stacks of wheat and researched the information available on the internet as well as in books.

You can read what I found out in my two blog posts below

Monet in the '90s: The Series Paintings

Monet in the '90s: The Series Paintings
Monet in the '90s: The Series Paintings

Paul Hayes Tucker - the leading expert on Monet in the USA , provides a fresh context for the series paintings.

Tucker looks at the development of his art before the 1890s and the cultural pressures of the 1880s that caused Monet to turn to serial painting.

He focuses on the major and minor series of paintings from the 1890s - including the paintings of Rouen Cathedral - and examines how they were painted and how they were received.

This is an important and critically acclaimed book for all those wanting to study Monet and his series paintings.

Paperback: 340 pages

Publisher: Yale University Press

(January 29, 1992)

 
"Meules, milieu du jour" painted by Claude Money in 1890-91. Oil on canvas; 65.6 × 100.6 cm (25.8 × 39.6 in). Current location: National Gallery of Australia
"Meules, milieu du jour" painted by Claude Money in 1890-91. Oil on canvas; 65.6 × 100.6 cm (25.8 × 39.6 in). Current location: National Gallery of Australia | Source

The First Exhibition of the Series - at Galerie Durand-Ruel in Paris

The very first time people saw these paintings was in an exhibition held in a room of the Galerie Durand-Ruel in Paris in May 1891.

Fifteen of these impressionist paintings by Monet of haystacks were displayed in the exhibition - and all the paintings sold quickly.

  • Durand-Ruel bought in eight before the exhibition opened - a common strategy for a gallery owner who was sure an exhibition would be a success. It enabled him to place the paintings with important collectors who used his gallery - and also helped his status with acquiring more collectors as future clients.
  • Monet sold two of the paintings direct to his collectors before the exhibition opened.This left just five which were available for sale.

Besides being a commercial and financial success, the paintings were also received well and got good reviews from the critics.

It seems as if people read into the haystacks whatever meaning meant something to them and it appears there were a lot of meanings there to be read!

Grainstacks Snow Effect painted by Claude Monet (1890/91). In French - "Meules, effet de neige". Oil on canvas; 65 × 100 cm (25.6 × 39.4 in). Current location: Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Grainstacks Snow Effect painted by Claude Monet (1890/91). In French - "Meules, effet de neige". Oil on canvas; 65 × 100 cm (25.6 × 39.4 in). Current location: Minneapolis Institute of Arts | Source

How to tell the difference between haystacks and grain stacks

Hay in Art - Missed stacks and mistakes: distinguishing between hay and straw and other heaps. by Alan Ritch provides a great overview of the conundrum of what to call these paintings

The problem arises because artists give names to objects - but these might not be the right names.

Of course in Monet's case his titles would have been in French and hence there's also the issue of translation from French to English to take into account.

So the question is - are these hay stacks or grain stacks?

It helps if we know what the difference between the two actually is.

HAY STACKS

Hay is created when grass is cut by some form of cutting implement. In the past manual labourers would use a scythe. Now in many parts of the world machinery does the job.

The grass is left on the ground to dry. It used to be turned by farm labourers using large rakes. Drying means the grass loses its colour. After that the dry grass - or hay - would be dragged together and heaped into stacks and left to dry some more before it was removed to storage in the farmyard.

Now the work of the manual labourers is undertaken by a tractor which cuts the grass and hay balers which create rectangular hay bales. The bales are then collected and stacked neatly - in the field to start with and then in the farmyard for winter feed.

GRAIN STACKS

Grain crops also used to be cut by hand - usually using a sickle or a scythe. This happened when the grain had ripened and turned to gold. Manually the straw stalks topped by the grain would be bound together into a sheaf and tied with straw.

The sheaves are then set on end and lean together to create a stook with the grain on the inside and the straw stalks on the outside - creating a weather-proof canopy for the grain.

Stooks would then be built up into stacks - either in the field or the farmyard. It was all a question of progression.

Nowadays, the grain is extracted by the combine harvester and goes for storage in a grain silo. The straw stalks are chopped up, tossed out and spread by the combine harvester on the field.

Monet Haystacks - video by Khan Academy

Locations of the Stacks in Museums and Art Galleries

The paintings may be a series but they are now located all over the world in private collections and the permanent collections and exhibitions of different art galleries and museums.

The Art Institute of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois, USA has the largest collection of these paintings owning six in total. These are:

  • Stack of Wheat, 1890/91,
  • Stack of Wheat (Snow Effect, Overcast Day), 1890/91,
  • Stack of Wheat (Thaw, Sunset), 1890/91,
  • Stacks of Wheat (End of Day, Autumn), 1890/91,
  • Stacks of Wheat (End of Summer), 1890/91 and
  • Stacks of Wheat (Sunset, Snow Effect), 1890/91

The website links below are to where the individual paintings can be seen in MUSEUMS AND ART GALLERIES (below) - and also online

Haystacks: Snow Effect (1891) by Claude Monet, National Gallery of Scotland, Oil on canvas, 65.00 x 92.00 cm
Haystacks: Snow Effect (1891) by Claude Monet, National Gallery of Scotland, Oil on canvas, 65.00 x 92.00 cm | Source

Paintings of stacks in Private Collections

These are links below to individual haystack paintings which are in Private Collections.

The Atheneum seems to have the best record of paintings which are not on public view. My understanding is that most of their images originally came from old auction catalogues

Websites highlighting Monet's Stacks Series

These are websites where you can see the paintings of the hay stacks as a series

Comments and Suggestions - Let me know what you think - but please do not spam!

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • makingamark profile image
      Author

      Katherine Tyrrell 4 years ago from London

      @anonymous: I take it you didn't read the lens then - which lists dates for every one of the paintings in the series which I managed to track down.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Put some dates like the beginning and end of Monet's series or at least give an idea of when he painted them.