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Monet, Rouen Cathedral Series

Claude Monet​ painted more than 30 canvases depicting Rouen cathedral between 1892 and 1894. This video discusses the following four paintings in the collection of the Musée d'Orsay in Paris: Rouen Cathedral (The Portal, Grey Weather), 1894, oil on canvas, 100 x 65 cm Rouen Cathedral (The Portal and the Tour d'Albane, Morning Effect), 1894, oil on canvas, 106 x 73 cm Rouen Cathedral (The Portal, Harmony in Blue), 1894, oil on canvas, 91 x 63 cm, and Rouen Cathedral (The Portal and the Tour d'Albane in the Sunlight), 1894, oil on canvas, 107 x 73 cm Speakers: Drs. Beth Harris and Steven Zucker. Created by Beth Harris and Steven Zucker.

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  • winston default style avatar for user Emily Mickel
    Why do these cathedrals look so blurry? Is that how they were meant to look, or did something else cause this?
    (5 votes)
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    • leaf green style avatar for user pfernandez
      Monet was an impressionist painter. Impressionist art wasn't necessarily concerned with detail. More important was to give an "impression,"or sort of a vague notion of the subject. Capturing the effect of light is also a quality of this style and it is mentioned frequently in this video. (beginning at time stamp )
      (17 votes)
  • leaf orange style avatar for user Jeff Kelman
    So we are looking at four out of thirty of the Rouen Cathedral paintings and these are hanging in the Musee d'Orsay, but where would we find the other twenty six?
    (2 votes)
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    • hopper cool style avatar for user Madeliv
      In all the corners of the world:
      J. Paul Getty Museum
      Beyeler Museum Riehen, Switzerland
      Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rouen
      Clark Art Institute Williamstown, USA
      National Gallery of Art (USA)
      National Museum Cardiff, Great Britain
      Pola Museum of Art Hakone, Japan
      Folkwang Museum, Essen, Germany
      (7 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user Valerie Gray
    Don't you think this is mostly about colour, not form
    (2 votes)
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  • leaf green style avatar for user Chase Bryan
    Beth says that the idea of this cathedral in the Gothic era was that "what could be seen was really a symbol of what couldn't be seen" (I'm assuming this means that the sculpture and everything adorning the cathedral portrays the spiritual world that we ourselves are unable to experience personally). "And in a way, what Monet seems to be telling us here at the end of the 19th century is that what we see is what there is." So is the point of this statement to say that Monet's paintings here make a jab at religious institutions?
    (2 votes)
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    • blobby green style avatar for user Andrea Pietschmann
      I think the statement refers to a difference in the style of thought. Gothic style dealt with ideas related to the concerns of spirituality and in creating a space that was a metaphor for that experience. Impressionism was not so concerned with that kind of spirituality, but more so with a moment in reality and how one perceives that through light and color changes.
      (2 votes)
  • female robot ada style avatar for user Danielle IS AMAZING tbh
    What is Monet's style of brushstrokes in this painting? : ))
    (2 votes)
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  • female robot ada style avatar for user Z. A. de Bruyn
    Sometimes the painting in this series is so lush and warm and welcoming, other times it's cold and chilly and almost unwelcoming. There's real warmth in the pinks and yellows, and a real sense of softness in the blues, but then there's the darker shades, and I almost like them a bit less. They welcome my eyes a bit less, while the "warmer" paintings feel... homey? Almost?

    Some types of light on the church really made the church feel alien and impregnable, while others made it feel light, homey, welcoming... all the things you'd probably want in a church, I suppose. There's also an austere quality to the darker, sterner paintings, and a more lush quality to the paintings with the brighter blues, the happier yellows, and the warmer pinks.

    I think I have Monet to thank, in part, for my overall appreciation of art. His warmer, pinker, bluer, sunnier paintings feel a bit like "coming home" and I gaze on them with a sense of relief and happiness. His darker pictures, with the heavier shadows, fogs, and less light, tend to feel more turbulent and provocative. They make me want to write stories, where the warmer pictures make me want to draw or paint or go to a museum.
    (2 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user jade osterout
    how many of these paintings are there
    (1 vote)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user Sophia Smith
    Is there a way to cite this for a paper I'm writing? Thanks (MLA is preferable)
    (1 vote)
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  • leaf green style avatar for user Lorin Duckman
    Truth to our or in our experiential? Not sure I understand.
    (1 vote)
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    • leafers seed style avatar for user Katrina Beck
      Well, to start, experiential means "what one sees or experiences" (versus what is actually there). The discussion is about, as Dr. Zucker puts it "the triumph of the optical over the physical". Basically the end of the video is discussing how everyone sees and experiences things differently, and even if it's not 100% accurate there is some truth to what we see, there is "truth to our experiential".
      (1 vote)
  • blobby green style avatar for user imhistory
    how do i get the embed code
    (1 vote)
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Video transcript

(light jazz piano music) - [Voiceover] We're at the Musee d'Orsay and we're looking at four of over 30 canvases that Monet made of Rouen Cathedral, which is a little more than an hour's drive north of Paris. - [Voiceover] Over two late winters and early springs 1892 and 1893, he went to the space across from the cathedral and he did the cathedral in different effects of light. So what he did was he had several canvases going at once, each for a different moment of the day and a different effect of light. - [Voiceover] Well, that makes sense. If Monet is trying to define this ephemeral quality of light, then as the sun moves, he would need to change canvases. - [Voiceover] Right. - [Voiceover] He can't paint that fast. - [Voiceover] No. - [Voiceover] And then he would come back to it day after day, but in also different weather effects, and having his temporary studio across the street allowed him to paint in the rain, early in the morning, etc. There's a lot of paint on these canvases, and so this is not something that was done quickly. - [Voiceover] Monet was always interested in capturing the fleeting effects of something that he saw, but here it's become the exact subject of the painting. The irony is that as he's capturing something that's fleeting, he takes longer and longer to paint it, and to finish it, not outside, but to finish it in the studio. - [Voiceover] There's another irony here which is that if the subject is really about light and the way light constructs form, and I think that really is the subject, he's picked a pretty potent thing to render that. - [Voiceover] Yes. - [Voiceover] That is to say, a medieval cathedral which with all of its religious connotations, its historical connotations, and is solid in the extreme, and yet in the rendering by Monet these are not such solid forms. - [Voiceover] No, they really appear very light, almost filigree forms. They lack a sense of heavy three-dimensionality. The subject of a Gothic cathedral is divine light itself. - [Voiceover] So why would he be interested, in a just formal sense, in a Gothic cathedral? And I always thought it had to do with the enormous complexity of the surface. - [Voiceover] There's no doubt it's the complexity of light and shadow on the facade of a cathedral like Rouen Cathedral that was appealing to him. But I don't think it's simply because the Gothic church has a fabulous facade, I mean, he's choosing something very identified with France, the Gothic style. There feels to me like there's something nationalistic here, there feels to me like there's something poignant here. - [Voiceover] This is in a sense taking that grand history, taking all of the power that these function as symbolically, and in a sense understanding them through the lens of the late nineteenth century. - [Voiceover] They are meant to be seen together, and he exhibited them together. They're very beautiful and one really does get the sense of optical effects of different times of day, the morning mist, the sun coming out, the heat of the afternoon sun. - [Voiceover] What happens to my eyes as I move across the canvas, is different parts of the cathedral protrude and recede in different ways and different light, and in a sense the physical stone itself becomes really this mutable experience in that the building is shaped and reshaped by the way the light hits it. - [Voiceover] Right. - [Voiceover] And that the very architecture is transformed, and in a sense it is a triumph of the optical over the physical. - [Voiceover] Which is something very different than the Gothic architects would have thought about the church, because what could be seen was really a symbol for what couldn't be seen, and in a way, what Monet seems to be telling us here in the end of the nineteenth century is what we see is what there is. - [Voiceover] That there is truth to our experiential. (jazz piano riffs)