Claude Oscar Monet married Alice Hoschedé, a family friend, after the tragic death of his wife, Camille. The artist became good friends with the Hoschedé family and helped them financially in a time of need, and both families lived together in Vetheuil to share resources. The newlywed couple had recently moved to the city when Monet painted Poppies Near Vetheuil in 1879.
The Impressionist would mainly work en plein air, in other words, they painted outside. Often, they would form groups and paint the same scene together. Their main concern was with observing the optical effects of natural lighting on a landscape and figures, something that can’t be experienced in a studio. This way of painting was partially influenced by the Japanese woodcut prints coming to Europe at the time, many portraying nature and themes of the everyday life with bright colors and unusual compositions. Monet collected many of these prints, and the aesthetic influence caused an impact in his work.
This cloudy but colorful landscape portrays Alice and three of their children frolicking in the poppy field. Alice is almost centered on the canvas and hold a bouquet of freshly picked flowers. The overall red dots of the field are overwhelming and contrast with the dark city in the background. The artists family members wear hats and light-colored clothing – making them stand out from the rest of the landscape. As soon as the bright red and green poppy field ends, the dark city appears in shades of gray, brown, green and blue. The contrast of nature versus the modern world can be seen in the artwork by the color palette used by Monet.
The sky is painted mostly in white and gray but embraces some areas of light blue as well. The gloomy atmosphere gives a sense of Monet’s uncertain future during this time. Although, his art career would soon launch, and his financial situation improves drastically. It is visible in Poppies Near Vetheuil of the artist’s natural change is style, as he experiments with different brush strokes. The sky holds looser and thicker strokes than the delicate dots of red flowers scattered on the fields. The city is also painted in a free manner – while the human figures are carefully painted, even though they are not realistically defined.
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