Monet’s Moody Sky

Monet’s St. Adresse
The Beach at St. Adresse by Claude Monet (now in the Art Institute of Chicago)

For centuries, when it came to the sky, most artists, like children, painted the old clichés. A sky was blue, wasn’t it?–and sometimes black when there was a storm. And, let’s see….there are clouds of all shapes, mostly white.

It took the outdoor painters to stop passing on the conventions and to go out and look at real skies. Skies finally stopped being just a big space to fill with the furniture of clouds or the mere accessory top part of a picture. They became a subject in their own right, as they deserve. After all, outside of the city at least, a day IS the sky. It sets the whole feeling of a day or of a time of day.

Remember this one? Maybe you’ve seen it in the early morning. It is a typical sky and a mood-making sky and yet it was probably never painted before Claude Monet came along and got out on the beach with his easel.

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6 Responses to Monet’s Moody Sky

  1. wrjones says:

    It sometimes does take a painter to make us take notice. Several months ago I watched a man painting. He was indoors making up a sky and I thought he had the clouds way too warm. There was a lot of yellow in them. But several days later I woke up in my camper early in the morning, looked out and there they were. Very warm clouds. Not the redish evening sun type but very yellow.

  2. 100swallows says:

    Right, Bill. Of course, if the man’s clouds struck you as too yellow, maybe they were still wrong for his picture.
    This reminds me of the beginner’s lesson that yellow is brighter than white. Most people start out making clouds (or the brightest part of their painting) white, believing you can’t get any brighter than that. Slowly they learn that some yellow makes them brighter–warmer, as you say. That came as a surprise to me, for one, I guess because I had only drawn and done pen and ink sketches when I began to paint.

  3. Ion Danu says:

    G, no doubt claude Monet was one of the highest points (no other expression come to my mind right now…) of landscape painting and all but there were others also (and I don’t speak about the other impressionnists…) L’École de Barbizon – with Daubigny, Diaz, Rousseau did the first steps… in England was Turner and then in France again Corot, Boudin, Jonkind… they open the road for Monet & comp.

    And you and Bill are right about yellowish-white… Of course, in watercolor you have the light lemon yellow of Windsor & Newton, famous for its brightness and opacity (because it’s a paradoxe: in painting light representation is almost always opaque…), sometimes more opaque and more bright than pure white. But you have to have windsor& Newton quality to lemon yellow if now, wow! man, what sour yellow and greenish yellows you got! Very easy to fall into kitsch with yellow lemon…

  4. 100swallows says:

    Yes, Danu, while I wrote I also remembered all those outdoor-painting pioneers. You mention Corot. And the English Constable, of course, years before Turner.
    I’ll have to look up which of my lemons is your Windsor and Newton.

  5. iondanu says:

    Myself I cound not afford it only once (it was about 18 $ a 10 ml tube!) but I remember I was amazed how well it covered the surface and how well it dilutes in water and on the paper… really unique quality. Take a chinese watercolor set and make a comparison… If expensive is now always good, cheap is always cheap… That’s way I try to paint with few colors but good if not excelent quality…

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