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Impression, Sunrise by Claude Monet

For Artwork in Focus we explore individual artworks, critiquing their style and discussing their socio-political context. Today we look at Impression, Sunrise by Claude Monet.

About the Work

Title : Impression, Sunrise
Artist : Claude Monet
Year : 1872
Medium : Oil on canvas
Dimensions :  48 cm x 63 cm
Location : Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris

Claude-Monet_Impression-Sunrise_Artwork-in-Focus_Divvya Nirula

Sunrise over Le Havre

The peaceful Impression, Sunrise, was inspired by sunrise over port Le Havre, France. The hazy mist depicted by Monet provides a background to the French harbour. The vibrant orange and yellow hues contrast luminously with the dark vessels afloat. What is striking about the painting is that that there is little detail. And it is only visible to the audience at a distance. The artwork creates an impression of the smaller boats in the fore ground being propelled forward by the motion of the water. This effect can be attributed to the separate brushstrokes that depict various colours “sparkling” on the sea.

It must be known that, Impression, Sunrise, is quite removed from Monet’s typical work. However, there are elements of his normal style. There is a deliberate merging of the horizon which then disappears, as the water, sky, and reflections eventually merge together. The vague shapes in the background are other ships and trawlers. And all are dominated by the glowing red sun.

“It really can’t pass as a view of Le Havre”


Monet never set out to create an accurate landscape, but to record the impressions formed in the mind’s eye, while looking upon that landscape. Young Monet grew up in the coastal region of Normandy, he spent a long time observing the beaches, and gained intimate knowledge of the shades of sea and the Norman weather. His young impressions would one day start an art movement.

Other Details

The art movement coincided with the literary movement. And several authors, noticeably, Joseph Conrad adapted the style in Lord Jim, where the words and descriptions were carefully created to give an idea and not a judgement.

Art critic M. Louis Leroy, in his criticism of Monet’s work famously (what is a now famous article in Le Charivari, an illustrated magazine published in Paris, France, from 1832 to 1937), used the term “Impressionist” simply based on the title of this painting. Despite the fact that critic had used the word sarcastically, the group merrily decided to adopt it. It was adopted by Renoir and Degas, who were happy to be called Impressionists!

To learn more about iconic artworks and their socio-political context, visit Artwork in Focus.

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