Look at artists who worked in series with the landscape such as Monet, Pissaro or Cezanne.
In February 2013, the Management and I had a holiday in Russia. While in Moscow we had the opportunity to visit Gallery of 19th and 20th century European and American Art. Here are some of the paintings we saw (and which I was allowed to photograph).
Rouen Cathedral At Noon, 1894, Claude Monet
Rouen Cathedral At Sunset, 1894, Claude Monet
Haystack At Giverny, 1884-1889, Claude Monet
Avenue de l’Opera (Effect of the Snow, Morning) 1898, Camille Pissarro
Mont Sainte-Victoire Seen From Les Lauves, 1906, Paul Cezanne
I did not realise at the time that all five of these paintings were parts of series by the artists.
I knew that Monet had painted a number of views of Rouen Cathedral as a result of a comment on a blog post I had written in May 2012 called Why go to exhibitions? which was about the fact that exhibitions allowed related works to be brought together where they could be compared. I’d jokingly ‘set homework’ asking about curating a fictional exhibition and a reply from Andy suggested he “would like to see Monet’s Rouen Cathedral paintings all in one place”. At the time I didn’t know the paintings so had to read round. I was delighted to see two of them in Moscow therefore.
“The Rouen Cathedral paintings, more than thirty in all, were made in 1892 and 1893, then reworked in Monet’s studio in 1894. Monet rented spaces across the street from the cathedral, where he set up temporary studios for the purpose. In 1895, he selected what he considered to be the twenty best paintings from the series for display at his Paris dealer’s gallery, and of these he sold eight before the exhibition was over. Pissarro and Cezanne visited the exhibition and praised the series highly.” Wikipedia.
Monet in this series (and other series) was trying to capture the effect of the light. One recorded exchange with a critic went: ‘And what, sir, is the subject matter of that painting?’ – ‘The subject matter, my dear good fellow, is the light.’ On another occasion, he said “For me, a landscape does not exist in its own right, since its appearance changes at any moment.”
As well as the Rouen Cathedral series, Monet painted a twenty-five canvas series of haystacks from summer 1890 through to spring 1891.
Haystack, Morning Snow Effect (Meule, Effet de Neige, le Matin), 1891.
(This is not one of my photographs although I did see this painting at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston a few years ago.)
Between 1899 and 1905, Monet travelled to London to capture its sights from the fifth-floor balcony of the Savoy Hotel. He was extremely prolific, beginning nearly 100 paintings in London. Thirty-seven of the canvases were of Charing Cross Bridge, only twelve of which he finished in London; the rest he took back to his Giverny studio for completion.
Charing Cross Bridge, 1903
In 1891 Monet painted a series of poplar trees. They actually belonged to the commune of Limetz and were put up for auction before Monet had completed all of his paintings. Monet was forced into buying the trees because he still wasn’t finished with his paintings. After he finished the series he sold the trees back to the lumber merchant who wanted them.
The Four Trees, (Four Poplars on the Banks of the Epte River near Giverny), 1891
I had a go at this work recently in pastels:
In my defence, the copy I was working from was much duller than the original reproduced above! The stages in the production of my pastel work is in my blog post Julia is on the Monet.
Paul Cezanne painted a number of landscapes featuring Mont Sainte-Victoire, a mountain in southern France, overlooking Aix-en-Provence. Unlike Monet’s work which were very similar except for the colours used to try and capture the effect of the light, Cezanne chose different viewpoints. The one above which I saw in Moscow is completely different from this one which is in the Courtauld in London:
Mont Sainte-Victoire with Large Pine (c. 1887)
Cézanne used geometry to describe nature, and different colours to represent the depth of objects (aerial perspective).
In a letter written in 1872 to his friend Camille Pissarro, Ludovic Piette said:
“I have always loved the immense streets of Paris, shimmering in the sun, the crowds of all colours, those beautiful linear and aerial perspectives, those eccentric fashions, etc. But how to do it? To install oneself in the middle of the street is impossible in Paris.”
Pissarro eventually solved the problem suggested by his friend Piette: elevation. From a room in the Hôtel de Russie, on the corner of the Boulevard des Italiens and Rue Drouot, Pissarro looked down onto the new spaces of Paris. Although the artist was very particular about the locations of the Boulevard Montmartre series, the city’s topography was not his subject. Like Monet in his series paintings, it was the changing conditions of the streets themselves.
Boulevard Montmartre, morning, cloudy weather 1897