“Impressionists on the Water” in the Legion of Honor Rosekrans Galleries is an art exhibit that aimed to represent the impressionistic view of nautical life. The exhibit features artwork from several well-known impressionist artists including Claude Monet, Gustave Caillebotte, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. It also features the art of several post-impressionists such as Maurice Denis and Paul Signac.
One painting at this exhibit that stood out to me was “Sunflowers on the Banks of the Seine” by Gustave Caillebotte. The primary focus of this scene is sunflowers, which appear very close to the point of the picture that the viewer is standing on. The sunflowers are growing immediately in front of a lake. Beyond the lake, there is a structure that appears to be a boat house and trees are growing nearby. Caillebotte was well known as a French impressionist painter who incorporates components of the realist movement into his art. This is clearly an impressionist painting because while the image is something that could occur in real life, it is blurrier due to the brush technique; impressionist artists are well known for using small, thin, and visible brush strokes. The depiction of lighting is also important in impressionist paintings; a common theme is the accurate portrayal of light as it changes. This feature of impressionism can be seen in this image because there is a darker lighting on the sunflowers that becomes lighter as we look further into the scene towards the structure and the trees. A major difference between Gustave Caillebotte and his impressionist colleagues is that his subject matter tended to be more realistic. This is obvious, because he chose to paint flowers growing in front of water. While this is a beautiful image, it is something that we may very well observe in real life; it is just slightly distorted from reality due to the brush stroke used.
A second painting that stood out to me at the exhibit was “Boats Moored at Le Petit-Gennevilliers” by Claude Monet. This oil painting depicts several sail boats next to an island with a large house on it and a continuation of this island in the far distance. The main focus of this painting is the sail boats and the water. Monet is one of the best well known impressionist artists because one of his paintings, “Impression, Sunrise”. The large house that is slightly more in focus in this image compared to the boats is known as La Grenouillere and is a known floating hotel on the Seine; this was one of Monet’s favorite subjects and there is therefore several paintings that incorporate this building. The way that the light is reflected on the water in this piece is very typical of the impressionist movement.
One of the main differences between these two paintings is that Monet’s painting took advantage of the clouds in the scene to generate the light reflection technique that is typical of impressionism. Another difference between these two paintings is that Monet uses a brush stroke that make the smallest components of the painting look slightly larger than the ones in the Caillebotte. However, these two paintings have more similarities than differences; the brush stroke is similar and they both depict waterfront scenes. Furthermore, Monet’s painting also has elements of realism that Caillebotte was known for. Lastly, it is interesting to compare the water between these two paintings because they both depict water scenes; with the exception of the lighting techniques used, the water in these two paintings look almost the same.
Caillebotte, Gustave. Sunflowers on the Banks of the Seine. 1886. Legion of Honor, San Francisco. Impressionists on the Water.
Monet, Claude. Boats moored at Le Petit-Gennevilliers. 1874. Legion of Honor, San Francisco. Impressionists on the Water.