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General View of Rouen

Claude Monet

(1840 - 1926) | 995.7.1

Date : 1892 | Medium : Oil on canvas

General View of Rouen was shown to the public for the first time in Rouen in 1994, on the occasion of the ‘Rouen, Monet’s Cathedrals’ exhibition and was acquired by the Rouen Musée des Beaux-Arts the following year. It had been kept in the artist’s studio and bears the studio stamp. On Monet’s death it was sold on the art market by the heirs to his estate.

The artist obviously did not set out here to focus his eye and dash off a finished canvas of the city of Rouen, worked in skilful impasto. A few dabs of colour, thoughtfully applied with a light touch of the brush, creating horizontal bands of varying tones and intensity, are all it takes to evoke the city curled up in a loop of the Seine. Rising up from it, in the centre of the composition, are the distinctive towers of the Gothic cathedral which serve as much to give aesthetic balance to the work as to identify the subject. The finished surface is thin, almost transparent in places, and does not completely cover the canvas which is fine-grained with a format identical to the type used for the Cathedrals.

A quick sketch in paint rather than any kind of preparatory work, Monet uses oil here almost as if it is watercolour. The painting should be viewed not as a definitive work but as a set of shorthand notes, a diary entry, an hors d’oeuvre…