In early 1864, Claude Oscar Monet visited Honfleur along with his friend and fellow painter, Frederic Bazille. Together, they portrayed the coast and the countryside in an Impressionistic manner. During this trip, Monet painted Hauling a Boat Ashore Honfleur, and the artist ultimately became famous for painting sailboats, as it was one of his favorite themes to depict. The painter also concluded Sailing Boats at Honfleur during the same year.
The Impressionists were significantly inspired by the Japanese art that came to Europe. Artists like Hokusai produced woodcut prints in vibrant colors, nontraditional compositions, and dark contours. This exotic art also portrayed ordinary subjects of the everyday life and nature, which contributed to the urge of modern painters to work en plein air – meaning they worked outside and mostly in nature, to capture the sunlight on the landscape. They were not interested in fitting in the mold imposed by the Classic Academies, so turning their attention to the Orient offered an excellent alternative source of inspiration. Artists no longer felt the need to portray an idealized landscape while working in their studio, when they felt the need to experience their surroundings and lighting with their presence.
In Hauling a Boat Ashore Honfleur, Monet portrays a beautiful seascape at dusk, while three men haul a small boat to shore in vibrant color. The dark boat still is touching the water, and its image reflects on the waves, as do the men pulling the boat. The water is painted with light tonalities of blue and yellow and the sand is a dark gray, violet and blue. The far background depicts many houses of Honfleur with dark brown, ochre, and green pigment. The city line divides the horizon into two parts and has a lighthouse at the edge.
The sky is a vibrant combination of colors. Monet contrasts the dark gray colors with the bright variations of yellow, pink, and violet. Monet beautifully captures a typical scene of the simple fishermen of Honfleur working on the shore. This subject is considered very modern, as there is no connection to mythological or biblical stories. There was a concern in portraying the simplicity of nature and its relationship with humanity – something that Impressionists believed was not possible to achieve by only painting inside a studio.
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