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[MUSIC PLAYING] SPEAKER 1: And a painting by Claude Monet, which is one of a series of more than half a dozen canvases, taking the subject of Gare St. Lazare, which is a train station in Paris. It dates to about the winter of 1876, 1877, just a few years after the first Impressionist exhibition. SPEAKER 2: And Monet had been living in Argenteuil, which is a suburb of Paris. And, of course, he would have taken the train there and back as a typical suburban dweller into the city. And so this whole phenomenon of commuter railways into the city-- SPEAKER 1: It's a very modern idea. SPEAKER 2: And very-- Right. Wanting to live in the countryside, but working in the city. And so, Paris had been recently renovated during the second empire by Baron Haussmann, and these train stations were new, the boulevards were new. SPEAKER 1: So this was really this epitome of the modern, of the new, of the industrial, but it's so radical. We think of Monet as painting waterlilies. We think of him painting the pastoral suburban landscape. But here, what could be more gritty than these coal burning steam engines? SPEAKER 2: Yeah, I mean, even before Monet had been in Argenteuil, and he had painted landscapes, but he had chimneys in the background, or modern railway bridges, or elements of modern life. But here he's just completely embracing the gritty ickiness of modernism. SPEAKER 1: And yet if you look at the composition of the painting, it's actually not so different from a traditional landscape painting. If you look back at the canvases of say, Claude, who's got trees framing this movement, this visual-- SPEAKER 2: These frames on either side here. SPEAKER 1: This visual movement going back into space. SPEAKER 2: And also these diagonal-- SPEAKER 1: That's right. SPEAKER 2: These diagonal lines that recede and carry our eye back. But the painting is intensely flat, despite the diagonals. SPEAKER 1: Because of the emphasis on surface-- SPEAKER 2: And on paint. SPEAKER 1: --especially. And you know what's so interesting, if you look at this canvas, you have this locomotive that's actually moving into the station under this enormous iron grid work. And what could be more substantive, what could be more substantial than an iron locomotive? And yet because of the way that the steam is painted, it's actually beginning to obliterate and in a sense dissolve the solidity of the locomotive, of this mass of iron. And it's Monet, exactly his intent, which is to focus on the play of light, and the play of color. And what could be a more wonderful space to do that then in this entrapped space where the steam, where these droplets of water play against the sunlight that are coming through the windows above? SPEAKER 2: So Monet is thinking about the surface, and how that surface is flickering, and the colors that are changing on the surface. And he's not thinking so much the way an academic painter would have thought about creating a foreshortened object in space, creating perspective lines with it, and modeling it and giving it solidity. And so really, actually, if we look at this detail, there actually are no lines or contours to the object, no sense of traditional modeling at all. And the surface is incredibly painterly and almost abstract. SPEAKER 1: Sometimes the word scumbled is used. And what's interesting, because you can compare the way the Monet is completely removing line virtually from this canvas, with some of the other painters who worked in this area at the same time. I'm thinking about a painting by Caillebotte, who was a contemporary of Monet's. This is actually a bridge, which is just over the train tracks that we saw Monet painting just a moment ago. And here, everything is so linear and crisp and clean and clarified. And in fact, the linear perspective is very intense. SPEAKER 2: Right, it's an over dramatized linear perspective, but there is illusion, a real illusion of space here, which Monet denies us. SPEAKER 1: And everything is so, I mean, that ironwork looks like ironwork. It's so there. SPEAKER 2: And heavy. SPEAKER 1: Whereas in Monet, we see everything just dissipating, the steam, everything becomes just pure light, just pure color. SPEAKER 2: And we have a sense here of a street, of an urban street, of people passing each other, of the pace of modern life. And, of course, Manet did that as well in his painting of the railway, that passing people on the street-- SPEAKER 1: And this is the same location, isn't it? SPEAKER 2: In the same location. SPEAKER 1: Yeah, this is looking down onto those train tracks. SPEAKER 2: Exactly. And we could look for a moment-- SPEAKER 1: At the real train station. SPEAKER 2: Here it is. This is what it looks like today. SPEAKER 1: The photograph of it, at least. And so really, it's not a pretty place. SPEAKER 2: No. Not at all. SPEAKER 1: And yet Monet chose to make this luminous, and just an extraordinary expression of the beauty of modern, urban life. Here's a map of the train station just below. We're looking at the roofs of the train station. Just past that, the railway tracks that we were looking at, and then past that, the bridge that we saw the Caillebotte from. SPEAKER 2: And of course, these boulevards that had been recently built by Baron Haussmann as part of the modern Paris. SPEAKER 1: Which had really ripped through the city, but creating this modern bourgeois society, really. SPEAKER 2: That's exactly what Monet is painting, and Manet too. SPEAKER 1: So, if we go back to this canvas then, what we're seeing is this beautiful expression of Impressionism. [MUSIC PLAYING]