Monet: Creating Winter


These are all paintings of winter landscapes by Claude Monet. Distorted, so that the color palette is on full display. Monet effectively conveyed the cold, dreary nature of winter, by smattering his canvases with a heavy use of white and blue. The blue is icy and cold, while the all-encompassing white is harsh and claustrophobic. However, Monet didn’t stop there. He took what could have merely been dreary, winter landscapes, and added touches of brightness, through his color palette. And I think this orchestrated balance of darkness and light is best exemplified in Monet’s painting,
“Camille Monet on Her Deathbed”. Not a winter landscape itself, but a painting,
that shared the same tonal color palette, and would influence some of Monet’s best
winter landscapes in his Débâcle series. But first, some context… In the mid-1800s, Claude Monet was one of the few painters at the onset of the French Impressionist movement. Up until that point, artists would generally
work in their comfortable studios, using artificial light, to paint detailed interpretations of religious or historical events. Impressionist paintings focused on natural lighting. Particularly, how natural lighting affected colors in a scenic environment. This act, of stepping out of the studio and into nature,
in order to paint moments in time, is termed ‘plein air’, which literally translates to ‘outdoors’. “Claude Monet was the purest and most
characteristic master of Impressionism. The fundamental principle of his art was a new, wholly perceptual observation of the most fleeting aspects of nature – – of moving clouds and water, sun and shadow, rain and snow, mist and fog, dawn and sunset.” – William C. Seitz Religious, mythological and historical figures,
were now replaced with flowers, rivers and buildings. It was a radical shift. Since critics and audiences didn’t understand this new style of painting, and classical painters feared the new style would catch on, they dismissed it. At the time, painters hoping to gain notoriety and sell their work, would submit their best pieces to the salons – which were highly prestigious art exhibitions, held in Paris. If an impressionist painting was
lucky enough to be accepted, they were usually hung high, near the ceilings,
practically hidden away from the critics and audiences. As opposed to being displayed at eye level,
for proper examination and enjoyment. Selling impressionist paintings was nearly impossible. As Monet and his family struggled for money,
in their home of Vétheuil, a village outside Paris, Monet’s wife, Camille, became extremely ill with tuberculosis. Monet was forced to sell his paintings
for practically nothing, just to pay the bills. He was also in debt to his colorman. So in order to keep painting, Monet had to
narrow his palette from 15 colors down to 6: white lead, cadmium yellow, vermilion,
deep rose madder, cobalt blue, and chrome green. A palette, he would go on to utilize for the remainder of his career. Camille’s health grew worse,
as she was diagnosed with cancer, until she eventually died on September 5th, 1879. As she laid on their bed, the sunlight
softly caressing her cold face, Monet felt inclined to capture this tragic moment. A gentle cascade of white and blue,
falling down around her body, meeting at her chest in a clashing swirl of darkness,
making the entire painting seem bitterly cold and dreary. But at the bottom of the canvas,
there’s a glimmer of yellow reaching in. And the spots of red above her head, and on her heart,
offer glimpses of beauty to this otherwise tragic display. Here’s how writer and art critic,
John Berger, describes this painting. Berger describes this painting, as if it’s one
of Monet’s winter landscapes. And I can see why. The horizontal brushstrokes cross Camille’s body, look like snow-capped plains. And the vertical lines running down her face and body, make her almost looked like a mountain, extending into the sky. As I mentioned earlier, “Camille Monet on Her Deathbed” is not a winter landscape; but it shares similar qualities, and even influence some of the strongest winter landscapes of his career. Three months after Camille’s death,
France experienced its coldest winter in decades, completely freezing the river Seine,
near Monet’s home in Vétheuil. In some of the earliest work after his wife’s death,
Monet wanted to capture the Seine’s freezing. But he also wanted to capture it in a different way.
One painting wouldn’t suffice. He wanted to capture the entire freezing process, through the eventual thawing, all from the same perspective. Painting the same subject from the same perspective, multiple times, is called a series. The purpose of a series is to capture, how the
changing light affects the color on the subject, based on the hour in a day,
or the season in a year. Painters like Monet realized, that a single change in light across the landscape, would entirely change the colorization,
and thus the entire composition. Monet would go on to create more series later in his career, such as his famous Haystack series, and Rouen Cathedral series. But as first, was the freezing of the Seine,
known as his Débâcle series. He went on to capture 18 separate scenes of this freezing. But I wanna focus on three, which I will refer
to as: the Before, the Frozen, and the Thaw. Now, again: these are not detailed images. With Impressionism, the painter is tasked
with achieving an impression of the subject. Monet would use fast brushstrokes, in order to
quickly capture these fleeting moments of light. He had to work quickly – otherwise, he would have to stop and come back the next day, in order to find the proper light again. Because of this, images are reduced to shapes. “Try to forget hat objects you have before you –
a tree, a house, a field, or whatever. Merely think, ‘Here is a little square of blue,
here an oblong of pink, here a streak of yellow’, and paint it just as it looks to you,
the exact color and shape, until it gives you your own impression
of the scene before you.” – Claude Monet Blocks of ice then become rectangles, trees and people become lines, buildings become squares and triangles. Monet’s brush techniques were developed to convey shape. He used brick strokes – particularly in the water – to show reflections, and then used caches,
which are little, comma-like strokes, to show the shape of trees and flowers, or ripples in water. As opposed to empty landscapes, Monet frequently
included landmarks and people on his paintings. Which helped fix that painting in time and place. It ensured, that he was indeed capturing a specific moment in time. Monet was known for horizontal landscapes and vertical subjects. In these paintings, the river Seine is painted in short,
horizontal brush strokes across the canvas; while the people, trees and buildings,
are painted with vertical brush strokes. Another technique Monet utilized, was broken color. Instead of blending color on his palette, he would often take colors directly from the tube,
and layer them onto the painting. This allowed the audience to blend these colors together optically. What strikes me most about the Débâcle series,
is the similar tone and aesthetic they share with “Camille Monet on Her Deathbed”. The Before painting is washed completely
in a mixture of white and blue, that shrouds the entire canvas.
The icy water and gray sky bleed into one. The trees are barren and brittle, almost lifeless. The Frozen painting shows the ice gathering,
completely clogging the Seine. There are no people present,
making it feel isolating and alone. But yet, there’s brightness again, as the Sun appears
to be breaking through the gray sky with hints of orange. And finally, in the Thaw painting,
a luscious purple coats the sky. A sliver of red on the horizon suggests a bit of warmth. The blue and white of snow, is now replaced with the green of grass, offering signs of life, and even hope. Many historians and critics consider Camille to be Monet’s artistic muse. She appeared as the subject in over 30 of his paintings. She pushed him, and influenced many of his greatest works. Which makes it all the more fitting,
that even in her death, she inspired Monet to not only capture the freezing process of the river Seine, in that winter of 1880, but to also capture the process of grief
so effectively and beautifully, as only Claude Monet could. Entertain The Elk puts out two new videos a month,
so make sure you subscribe below, if you haven’t already. That way you don’t miss out
on any new content, whenever it drops. Entertain The Elk just passed its first year mark! I can’t believe it’s already been a year, but it was so much fun. Getting to start this channel, and seeing it
grow to over 90,000 subscribers in only a year, has been mind-blowing and phenomenal. So, I just wanted to thank again everyone for watching,
and supporting over the past year. Thank you for reaching out online, or in the comments below, with kind words of encouragement. And I’m just so glad, that people are resonating
with these videos and enjoying them. Uh, can’t wait for Year Two, and uh…
Yeah, I’ll see you in the new year. Bye!

75 Replies to “Monet: Creating Winter”

  1. Love the video, man. It would be awesome if you talk more about painters like Edvard Munch or maybe René Magritte in the future. Keep up the good work!

  2. as soon as i heard they changed patreon first thing that went threw my head was" on no what about Entertain The Elk"
    but i also heard they changed it back or something. how is everything on your end?
    hope you reach that number for the south park died episode soon

  3. What happened to the elk sound at the beginning title card of the video!? It felt weird without it! But also, great video.

  4. Monet is my favorite painter, every desktop background I've used for the last few years has been a Monet painting, I just find his work to be so soothing. I had the pleasure of seeing many of his pieces in person at the Art Institute in Chicago, he just manages to capture something unlike any other artist I've ever seen, I can't even really put it into words, but his work is just gorgeous.

  5. Monet is my favorite artist. My favorite fact about his is that he developed cataracts later in life, so his paintings around that period have a reddish tinge to them, which captured how he saw the world.

  6. Amazing educational video, makes want me to pick up a brush myself, Monet was a great mean. So are you, keep up the good work with your great channel!

  7. You appear to be incredibly knowledgeable in many forms of media, combine that with a soothing voice and unique perspective and you have a brilliant YouTuber that I hope will continue releasing more.

  8. LOVE this channel! Just subscribed. Beautifully edited and narrated. Thank you for this concise and wonderful presentation! I can go to bed now with dreams of impressionism. Cheers, D P.S. Keep going!

  9. I have yet to really get into paintings- particularly impressionist art. On the surface level it always gave off an aesthetically unappealing style to it, but after this video, it's sort of opened my eyes to how much deeper the paintings can be upon context, or extended viewings. It's something I'm definitely more interested in reading up now!

  10. I just like to say it’s content like this and others like you that keeps utube from becoming totally overrun with meaningless garbage . Keep up the thoughtful and creative work . I work in the dying world of broadcast television . Content like this heartens me greatly . Fabulous 🙂

  11. What I love is the focus on a narrow part of Monet's work yet unfolding for the viewer why that narrow slice is actually a larger part of the Monet narrative and Impressionist sensibility. It's good story-telling. And I'm a fan of Monet – my first dog (as an adult) was named Monet. It's true. I was young. 🙂

  12. I want to encourage you by saying, no matter the view count this is still my favorite video you've done man, keep up the great work.

  13. After watching this, some scenes from the movie Call me By Your Name show a lot of inner meaning. Remember "Monet's berm"? Now it all makes sense. At the end of the movie, there are a lot of shots showing the frozen lake and Monet's berm in the winter. Sure, it gave the audience a feeling of grief because Oliver had left. But now, I understand that the director was paying homage to Monet himself. The grief over Oliver's departure is shown by winter just like how Monet showed his grief over his wife's death through his paintings. In the movie too, there is a 'series' where we see important locations at different seasons, just like Monet did with his paintings. Wow!

  14. Just visited a Monet-exhibition in Vienna. It was incredible to see his paintings in real in front of you. »Camille Monet on her Deathbed« wasn't there but about 100 other ones, including »Train in The Snow«. Your essay really helped me to appreciate this virtuoso artist. Thanks a lot!

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