Claude Monet - Waterloo Bridge, Sunlight Effect 1903

Waterloo Bridge, Sunlight Effect 1903
Waterloo Bridge, Sunlight Effect
1903 64x100cm oil/canvas
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh

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From Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh:
Bridges of all types and locations were major subjects throughout Monet’s career. In 1899, he began an extensive series depicting three subjects in London: the Houses of Parliament, Charing Cross Bridge, and the Waterloo Bridge. He worked on nearly one hundred (known) canvases during three extended trips to London in 1899, 1900, and 1901, each time staying at the luxurious Savoy Hotel on the Thames. He painted the two bridges from his hotel balcony and continued to work on many of the London canvases in his studio until 1904, when an exhibition of thirty-seven paintings of them was held at Durand-Ruel’s gallery in Paris. Monet made forty-one known canvases of the Waterloo Bridge. From the Savoy, on the elegant north side of the river, he looked across the Thames to the industrial southern bank and its prominent smokestacks. Monet painted the bridge from a far enough distance that many of its structural details are obscured. The structure was largely a vehicle for his primary interest in capturing the shifting effects of fog, ephemeral light, and reflections on the water. This canvas likely depicts a strong afternoon light, allowing Monet to use a vivid yet soft color palette of yellows, oranges, and golds on the bridge and other structures in the distance and complementary violet-blue and pink tones for the sky, water, and atmosphere. These dominant colors are subtly inflected with myriad varying hues to create a rich visual texture and make the brushwork palpable. He also created a sense of motion in the traffic across the bridge, the river’s current, and the trails of smoke from chimneys in the background. The fog in nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century London—tainted by extensive industrial pollution and taking on unusual colors and thicknesses—was legendary. Artists such as J. M. W. Turner, Winslow Homer, Charles-François Daubigny, Camille Pissarro, and James Abbott McNeill Whistler had been drawn to the subject. Oscar Wilde remarked in his 1889 essay “The Decay of Lying: An Observation”: “At present, people see fog, not because there are fogs, but because poets and painters have taught them the mysterious loveliness of such effects.” Commenting on the London series, Monet expressed frustration over the difficulty of painting constantly changing subjects—such as dissolving clouds, shifting light, and moving water. Every new glance toward the vista revealed the scene in a new way.