Sunday, 29 May 2011

Modernism, Monet and 'Maggie'

Both Claude Monet and Chuck Close were exploring paint, colour and human perception.

Maggie, (1996), Oil on canvas, © Chuck Close 

Water Lilies (1920) Claude Monet

1. Outline the intentions of each artist and 2. Describe the techniques of each artist
Claude Monet was one of the early impressionists (“Claude Monet, (1840-1926),” 2011). Impressionists placed “emphasis on landscape painting... [and aimed] to break up light into its basic components and to reduce shapes and forms to an ‘impression of the scene” (French painting 1830-1930,” 2011). The term impressionism originated from art critic Louis Leroy from Monet’s painting ‘Impression: Soleil Levant’ when he said it was just an impression and that the work could not be considered finished (“What is Impressionism,” 2011). The term was picked up by artists as a way of describing their works instead of a negative critique and created works in this style using similar techniques. They are characterised by “short, ‘broken’ brush strokes of pure, untinted and unmixed colours give the appearance of spontaneity and vitality” (“What is Impressionism,” 2011). The paintings surfaces were often highly textured with thick paint and were compositionally simplified and innovative with an emphasis on the overall effect not just on detail (“What is Impressionism,” 2011). Up until the Impressionists, history had been the accepted source of subject matter for paintings, but Impressionists looked instead to the many subjects in life around them (“What is Impressionism,” 2011). In Monet’s water lily paintings all these characteristics are clear especially in his view point that rather than giving a view from afar of an entire scene on a canvas, instead Monet has placed the viewer right up near, almost in the subject matter of the pond and the floating water lilies. With his water lily paintings he “wished for the paintings to encompass the viewer” (“Water Lilie, Claude Monet,” 2010), so as you were immersed in the subject matter. The aim of his large Water Lilies paintings, Monet said was to “supply "the illusion of an endless whole, of water without horizon or bank" (“Water Lilie, Claude Monet,” 2010). He wished to capture “the effects of light at different times of the day and seasons on the pond” (“Love, Not Light...Lilies,” 2011), in an attempt to capture the constantly changing quantities of natural light and colour along with the “shimmering reflections of clouds overhead” (“Water Lilie, Claude Monet,” 2010).
Chuck Close “has been a leading figure in contemporary art since the early 1970s” (“Chuck Close,” 1998). His works have been “associated with the style of painting called Photorealism or Superrealism” (“Chuck Close,” 2011). Photorealists frequently used a grid technique to enlarge a photograph and reduce each square to formal elements of design (“Chuck Close,” 2011). Thousands of tiny airbrush strokes, thumbprints or looping multi-colour brushstrokes (“Chuck Close,” 1998), make up his paintings turning them into mosaic like prints that reflect Close’s “keen interest in ancient floor mosaics” (Chuck Close,” 2000-2001). Most of his works are very large portraits based on photographs (“Chuck Close,” 2006), of personal images of family and friends, as well as self portraits.  His works form a link between representational systems of painting and photography (“Chuck Close,” 2011).

3. Find 2 quotes about each artists work, and reference them correctly.
·         "The motif's essential is the mirror of water whose aspect is constantly being modified by the changing sky reflected in it, and which imbues it with life and movement."  - Claude Monet (“Chuck Oscar Monet,”2006)
·         "These landscapes of water and reflections have become my obsession. They are far beyond my old man powers and despite everything I want to succeed in conveying what I feel."  - Claude Monet (“Chuck Oscar Monet,”2006)

·         "Artists...see both the device that makes the illusion and the illusion
itself. I'm as interested in the distribution of marks on a flat I am with the thing that ultimately gets depicted... [It's] shifting from one to the other that really interests me."
Chuck Close (Chuck Close,” 2000-2001).
·         “Some people wonder whether what I do is inspired by a computer and whether or not that kind of imaging is a part of what makes this work contemporary. I absolutely hate technology, and I'm computer illiterate, and I never use any labour-saving devices although I'm not convinced that a computer is a labour-saving device" (“Chuck Close,” 2011).

4. Note 3 similarities of the work of both artists.
·         Both artists use small quick brush strokes to create their art. Close “[uses] the techniques of grisaille and pointillism within the grids. This is similar to technique used by the Impressionists” (“Chuck Close,” 2011), of which Monet was a part of.
·         Monet was interested in portraying “blurry evocations of nature” (“Water Lilie, Claude Monet,” 2010), with Close finding a similar interest “in how a photograph shows some parts of the image in focus, or sharp, and some out-of-focus, or blurry” (“Chuck Close,” 2011).
·         The two men both focused on a single subject for many years. Close worked solely on his art of the human figure (Chuck Close,” 2000-2001), whilst Monet had “years of tedious focus upon his pond and the water lilies at Giverny (“Love, Not Light...Lilies,” 2011).
·         Also the artworks created are in relation to the visual elements that they are made up of. Close was concerned with the shapes, textures, volume, shadows, and highlights of the photograph itself (“Chuck Close,” 2011), and transferring these into a painting. Monet similarly concerned with the light as it hit the surface of the water at different times of the day and the reflections it caused.
·         Both artists have works that are clearly of their subject matter whilst others take time to see. Closes self portrait to me seems to be possibly of his eye and partial face which took some observation for me to see. Some of Monet’s water lilies appear very cloud like or as if they were world maps drawn blurry where as others are more clearly flowers resting on the surface of water in ponds.

5. What are some differences between the artist's works. (At least 3)
·         Closes works have an almost even square or rectangular form, whereas Monet’s works tend to be long and drawn out across a large space.
·         Closes works are influenced by technology with the use of his photographs to capture the image before he makes his artworks. Monet’s water lilies are entirely observational and done empirically at the pond itself.
·         Monet’s works have a fuzzy, blurry effect from his brushstrokes compared to Close’s more chopped up and sectioned, squared off grids.
·         Both artists use colour differently to create a whole. Close uses colours next to each other to trick the eye into blending them to see an image, whilst Monet colours blend and mix as they were applied to define or merge shapes.

6. Describe your response to the work of both artists and 7. Other comments
For me I prefer Monet’s works. I appreciate Close’s works as they remind me of looking at things from an obscured view like looking through a window whilst it’s raining. To me they seem too technology influenced and mathematical with the grids and block/shapes or colour compared to Monet’s more painterly technique in applying media to create and define subject. I think the culture i was brought up in of painted works being done in a certain way affects my opinion towards these works and biases me towards preferring Monet’s for it more painterly feel over Close’s more contemporary approach to art.

Claude Monet, (1840-1926) (retrieved 25th May, 2011).

French painting 1830-1930 (retrieved 27th May, 2011)

What is Impressionism (2011).  

Love, Not Light, Reflected in the Pond of Monet’s Water Lilies (retrieved 27th May, 2011) 

Chuck Close (December 31, 2006)

Claude Oscar Monet (30 Sept, 2006.


  1. Even though I don't have a strong preference over either artist, I think it was interesting to see how you are more sided with Monet’s works. It seems that people always have their own idea of what they think art should be and it is quite visual in how modern art has changed where Close's work is like you said, more technical and mathematical while Monet’s work is more free and a more traditional style of painting.

  2. Very interesting blog but I do agree with you to some extent about Close's work being to technology influenced. Im open for any type of art I do have to say that Monet's work is probably more set around the time when modernism was firstly 'discovered' and is probably why people tend to choose something more traditional because its flooded with the idea. I see a little bit of an influence coming from Close by Monet's pieces he also adds that

  3. I really enjoyed researching Monet and learning how he was one of the founders of the Impressionism movement. I think you sum this up quite well in question one and two of your blog and I like the quote you added about how the term was picked up and adopted by Monet and how the he changed this negative criticism into something positive. Monet’s work definitely embodies this movement like you say.

  4. I agree Close’s works seem too technology influenced and mathematical. I have never seen his work before and I really never heard about him. I think it is a bit like modern design work and it isn’t familiar to my eyes. The other hand Monet shows me great dedication to painting landscape so I think he became an attractive painter.

  5. It's interesting to see that both artists use such similar techniques yet produce work which emit emotions very different to each other.

    There seems to be a bit of favoritism for Monet in this response, I support that and totally agree with your opinion on the comparison between the two.

    Close's works are basically embedded with complex technological and mathematical calculations giving it an almost artificial appearance. Close simply paints what he sees, it is boring and empty.

    Monet was fascinated with light and how it greatly effected the complete visual of a scene. For example, his most famous 'Water Lilies' is a series of 250 paintings, each with different views and lighting of the water lilies. Monet incorporates an amazing mix of emotion and movement into each work, in comparison to Close's paintings which seem somewhat hollow.

    In short, Claude ftw.