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Haystacks

Claude Monet, the definitive leader of French Impressionism, claimed that color is light and that when light changes color changes. Monet felt that minute transformations in the atmosphere could be best recorded by painting many different canvases, each at a different hour. To realize this theory, Monet began a revolutionary system of repeatedly painting nearly identical versions of the same scene. He would often vary only the time of day or the time of year.
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In 1891, Monet exhibited no less than fifteen canvases all devoted to haystacks painted at different hours and seasons. His interest was not in the haystacks as a story, it was in the way the haystacks changed with the natural light, absorbing, refracting and reflecting light from their bristling textured surfaces.

Many of Monet's most successful paintings were done in series: shimmering poplar trees, reflections in the canals of Venice, the fog and mist of London, and the lacey facade of Rouen Cathedral.

Monet's intention was to reproduce the effects of realistic sunlight, a radical concept in the nineteenth century. Most artists of the time were committed to studio work and refined realism. Monet actually made light itself the subject of his paintings. His radical indifference to subject matter paved the way for abstract art.

The Impressionists felt that sunlight tended to break color into multiple facets and that artists could express this by means of broken color on the canvas. In Monet's haystack paintings, Monet applied color loosely in small patches, recording every nuance of fluctuating light.

Claude Monet (1840-1926)

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