Claude Monet was Catholic but he was not heavily religious, but he did have many religious influences such as how his second wife was a devout Catholic and his best friend in his later years was a priest at a local parish. This could be partially why he chose to paint the Rouen Cathedral, but the time period of the 1890’s holds much more relevance as to why he created his Rouen Cathedral series during 1892-1894. It holds such great relevance because it was during the 1890’s when there was a growing interest in Catholicism, and this specific cathedral was also very important to the time and location, because the gothic style of the Rouen Cathedral was considered the pinnacle of French culture and Gothic Cathedrals, which is why this series of his was so well accepted by everyone, including the critics of that time.
Monet was an advocate of equal rights, and simply wanted to show the world how there is yet another way, a deeper way to watch, perceive, and feel nature, which is what he tries to show and teach within his work.
Monet was part of the Impressionism art movement. Monet’s The Portal of Rouen Cathedral in Morning Light is from his Rouen Cathedral: The Facade at Sunset series from 1982-1984. Monet believed that the landscapes he painted changed appearance at every moment due to the surrounding atmosphere (the light and air that is constantly changing), and he believed the surrounding atmosphere is what truly brings the subject to life; he believes that the surrounding atmosphere is what gives the subjects their true value.
Within this series of work, he is able to convey how life and nature is filled with fleeting moments, and he wishes to capture these moments and show how much of an effect light has on our optical perception of a subject at a specific moment in time. He is able to show this through the impressionistic technique of making successive artworks that have subtle changes, such as the change in lighting conditions due to painting the same subject at different times of the day and year.
Monet’s Portal of Rouen Cathedral in Morning Light has very visible mark making when seen up close; he used very think impastoed layers of paint to help give a heavier, thicker quality to the subject which is made of thick stone. He used a stippled pattern in his brush strokes to give a rougher texture to show how the weathered grains of the old stones would look like. There is a stronger sense of depth at the bottom of the painting where the darker tones of the shadows in the Cathedral give a stronger sense of space and makes the painting slightly more 3-dimensional. But since the painting is done in this more simplified way where the details are blurred out to further emphasize the different lightings, it causes the piece to actually become distorted and lose perspective. The actual Rouen Cathedral is very intricate with very detailed gothic aspects, but due to Monet’s stylized representation of the Cathedral, it no longer contains minute details like the statues of the cathedral, because that’s not Monet’s focus, his main focus is on how lighting can completely transform a structure’s atmosphere. His stylizations help exaggerates the lighting within the painting.
When Monet uses the Rouen Cathedral as his subject for the paintings, it allows him to show a type of paradox between the solid, inanimate permanent Gothic stone structure and Monet’s vision of it where he is able to give a sort of life to this inanimate structure. There is also a flow within the way the Cathedral is portrayed, which almost provides a type of melting quality to it, which helps give a quality of peacefulness to the atmosphere. To capture the hazy, calm atmosphere of the Cathedral, Monet had to simplify the appearance of the Cathedral, since this atmosphere of the cathedral was suppose to have sense of calmness to it due to the luminous effects of the rising sun, but this calmness would have been lost if he included the extensive detailing of the Gothic aspects of the Cathedral.
In Portal of Rouen Cathedral in Morning Light, Monet depicts the Cathedral from a slightly displaced viewpoint, that is skewed to the right, and from a more downward perspective looking upward. This way the viewers can see how vast and tall the cathedral is, without feeling intimidated by it, which is how the viewers would have felt if it were viewed from a more frontwards perspective.
Monet’s impressionist painting techniques allow him to create colors and tones that had a more natural and richer appearance. His predominant use of blue really draws attention to the lighting and exaggerates it, this is because the light contains complementary colors of glowing orange and yellow to show the soft morning light. And by using his stippling technique, it causes the colors to appear more muddled to create an effect that shows the calm mist that occurs in the morning. Within the piece, the entirety of the Cathedral has a unified bluish undertone, to further show the effects of the morning lighting. Like most impressionist artists, Monet avoided the use of brown and black in his shadows. To make the shadows richer and to give more vitality to the piece, He tints his shadows with complementary colors. WIthin this piece Monet did not mix the colors together before painting, instead, he separated them by their different hues and then put pure, distinctive colors next to one another, which when viewed from far away, looks harmonious and the colors blend with one another.
The audience’s world is very diverse, since this painting is located in the Getty Museum, where it is viewed by so many people that come from different parts of the world where they have different values and religions, and different cultural beliefs. In the more modern times of today, Monet is always looked back as a mastermind of impressionism, but the audience from his time could at times be very critical of his work, since they had this belief that realism was superior, simply because it was the more common technique of art.
Since the piece is located in the Getty Museum, the audience could be informed or uninformed, but the bigger majority of the audience is uninformed. This is because people of all different levels of experience and knowledge of art go to the Getty Museum, but the majority of them do not have a strong background in art and simply want to go to experience and enjoy the masterful artwork presented there.