top of page

Claude Monet - Impression, Sunrise

by Alexandra Tuschka

Today it looks like just one of many sunrises we know from the Impressionists. But at the time of its creation, the painting was a shock. The recognized contemporary painting had taken a different direction - it was about fidelity to reality, about photorealism.

But the group of painters, which included Monet, asked themselves other questions. Is the sea in the morning the same as in the evening? Is the sea the same in red light as in yellow light? To train one's own sensation and not to eliminate it was the motivation of these artists.

It was necessary to counter the constant changes of light, of wind, of one's own sensation with speed. "Impression, Sunrise" seems as if it was created in only a short time and translated quite intuitively and directly from the eye to the hand.​

We see the port of Le Havre in the morning. In the foreground, the dark outlines of a few boats are still sharply discernible; in the back, the shapes are so abstract that it takes some effort for them to coalesce into ships and factory vents. Only the round, reddish sun overlooks the action as a clearly defined circle. It is also the sun that casts orange reflections into the otherwise bluish and foggy surroundings.

Monet gave the title "Impression" to the work on the spur of the moment when asked what title should appear in the exhibition catalog, "Since I could badly call the picture 'View of Le Havre,' I said, 'Call it Impression.'" This epithet was met with derision by the critics. Thus, they disparagingly called the group of artists' exhibition "Exposition des Impressionistes" - thus giving birth to a stylistic term that has withstood the passage of time.

Claude Monet - Impression, Sunrise

Oil on canvas, 1872, 48 cm × 63 cm, Musée Marmottan Monet in Paris


bottom of page