In April while in Rouen, Normandy, I was enthusiastic to see the Rouen Cathedral, which inspired Claude Monet (1840-1926) to create his greatest series of paintings. Between 1892 and 1894 Monet painted over 30 canvasses depicting the cathedral’s façade at various times of day, including various lighting conditions and times of year.
During the two years Monet worked on this series he rented three apartments across the street from the cathedral on the second floor above some shops. Working on many canvasses each day Monet moved from easel to easel as the light and time of day changed. All the paintings in the series were created in Rouen, but many were finished in Monet’s studio in Giverny.
The compositions are tight and allow the façade to dominate the picture plane. Monet varies his palette to reflect the changing light, ranging from monochromatic to analogous to complimentary color harmonies that vibrate and shimmer. Monet’s application of the paint is thick and sculptural adding to the weight of the canvasses.
Critics and artists praised the series when 20 of the canvasses were exhibited in Paris in1895. The success was not without struggle as Monet stated, “Color is my day-long obsession, joy and torment”. Indeed, Monet experienced nightmares during the process.
Today art collectors and museums covet these 30 canvasses. They are spread around the globe with most of them in the United States and France. Sadly, only one of the paintings remains in Rouen at the Musee des BeauxArts.
Many artists have been influenced by Monet’s Rouen Cathedral series, including pop artist Roy Lichtenstein who created a series of five paintings featuring the famous façade.
I have included a few of Monet's Rouen Cathedral series here for your viewing pleasure. To see all the paintings please visit the ArtWolf’s website.
Rouen Cathedral, Gray Weather, 1894 by Claude Monet, Musee des Beaux Arts, Rouen
Rouen Cathedral, Grey and Rose, 1982, National Museum of Wales, Cardiff, UK