Claude Oscar Monet and his first wife Camille moved to England in 1870 to flee from the Franco-Prussian war, where his fellow Impressionist friend Frederic Bazille died in combat. While on British grounds, the artist was influenced by the Romanticist landscape painters Joseph Mallord William Turner and John Constable, which he studied profoundly, helping him innovate in his color palette. In May of 1871, the Monet and his family moved to the Netherlands, where he painted Zaandam (detail) – that was part of a series of twenty-five paintings, including Houses on the Zaan River at Zaandam and Canal in Zaandam
The painter enjoyed the Dutch landscapes and portrayed it immensely in a short period of time, making the authorities suspect that he was involved in revolutionary activities. During this time, the artist took advantage of his geographic location and made his first visit to Amsterdam, where he also concluded paintings depicting the surroundings. Monet and his Impressionist colleagues traditionally work en plein air, meaning they painted outside to capture the effect of the fleeting sunlight upon a landscape. These modern painters were concerned in representing what they saw in complementary color palettes and expressive brushstrokes, which resulted in paintings that went against the traditional standards of the classic painting masters.
Although the group’s first Impressionist exhibition only happened in 1874, the paintings produced during his stay in Zaandam already give an idea of the path he was going to take in his career. The group created an alternative exhibition to the Paris Salon, as they were mostly rejected from their art shows – therefore the name: Salon des Refusés, meaning the Salon of the Rejected. In Zaandam (detail), Monet portrays a scene from the houses close to the river, that seems to be a cutout from a larger painting.
There are two colorful houses on the banks of the river at a diagonal angle – one is orange-brown, and the other is green – creating a sense of perspective. There are a series of trees next to and in between the houses in shades of green and this combination of colors reflect in the water. The sky and water are light blue, and other constructions can be seen in the far background. Monet inserts a small part of a sailboat on the right side of the canvas as if it were cut out of the composition.
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