Monet's 1873 Poppy Field Argenteuil is an emblematic work in the history of painting. After returning from England to escape the ravages of the Franco-Prussian war of 1870, Monet settled in Argenteuil and remained there until 1878. During this period of frenetic artistic activity, the young painter found serenity in the bright, verdant landscapes of the area.
Exercising his emerging techniques en plein air (outdoors) Monet 's Poppy Field Argenteuil was exhibited at the iconic first Impressionist exhibition of 1874. Since that first public display, and the scorn heaped upon the group's efforts by public and critics alike, the painting has become one of the most loved and recognized canvases in the world. Monet conjures an experiential reproduction of the shimmering atmosphere of a walk in an overgrown field in Summer.
The vibrant contours and surprising rhythms seem to emerge organically from the natural world, with the charismatic dabs and sharp brush-strokes creating a visual impression that dances across the canvas. Delving almost into abstraction, the human figures are used merely to anchor the painting, fixing the diagonal slope of the hill as a scale of changing color and light.
It appears that Monet was never particularly interested in capturing the mood of the city. Instead, the artist preferred to create his impressionistic reproductions of his place in nature. Settling in Argenteuil in late 1871, this primarily rural area was only eleven kilometers by rail from Paris yet offered the landscapes and scenes ideal for the artist to perfect his style. Shunning city-life, Monet immersed himself in the pastoral surroundings of life beside the Seine. His visual language was wholly steeped in the rhythms of the natural, rural – even rustic – world.
The painting portrays a sunny day, and a person wearing a hat taking a stroll in the blossoming fields of violet and orange flowers. Monet paints a few red dots on the forefront portraying red flowers. There are two tall trees on the left side of the canvas and is usually the first figure the viewer sees. This composition leads the viewer from the trees to the man, then into the colors of the field, and lastly to the white clouds of the sky, with hints of yellow and purple.
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