Monet Haystacks

Monet began a series of paintings of haystacks in the summer of 1890. These paintings, of which there are more than 25 examples of, would become defining examples of impressionist painting.

While each painting in the Haystacks series is different, they all share common qualities. They were painted in the farmlands of Normandy, north of Paris. Each picture shows a field with hills and trees in the distance. In the foreground Monet painted haystacks – which lead to the title of the group of paintings. Sometimes there is one stack, sometimes two or three. The haystacks themselves are put together by binding a large base of hay and then adding a cone shaped layer of hay on top. Each stack is close to 20 feet tall and weighs an enormous amount, withstanding the harsh weather until it is time to harvest them.

Impressionist artists like Monet were interested in seeing the world in a new way. In doing so, they wanted to show that viewing their surroundings could be much more beautiful and complex than what is on the surface. Through painting subjects that were common images, not heroic stories or sublime natural beauty, Monet shows that importance can be found in everything.Haystacks in Winter

His Haystacks elevate the status of common bales of hay, highlighting the importance hay plays in agriculture and sustaining life. Impressionism, and Monet specifically, often give importance to working class elements of life, like farming, by painting them.

Beyond just their choice of subject matter, impressionists like Monet were criticized in their time for the very way in which they painted. Short, visible brushstrokes are one of the most characteristic elements in impressionistic painting. Monet was interested the fleeting moments of life and light, and such, had to paint scenes quickly. He would bring his paints and canvas out to the fields and paint quickly, outside, or en plein air, capturing what he saw. Later, once he returned to his studio, he would finish the paintings inside, correcting compositions and making sure everything was as it should be.

This quick way of working was necessary for Monet to accomplish the real goal of his painting. Monet was looking at objects, haystacks, and at the “atmosphere or envelop that colors it differently at different times of the day.” He had to work quickly to capture the changing light and how it colored his surroundings. Often we have an image in our head, but Monet was showing that that image should differ throughout time. A haystack covered in snow might appear white in our minds, but depending on the light, it would appear blue, yellow, or pink at sunset.

Focusing on a single subject twenty-plus times gave Monet the ability to show the effects of changing light. It took his art from being focused on objects as subject, to being about light, or lumière, as subject.


Learn more about  Monet's famous paintings

Visit Monet

Other Great Masters

Monet Prints >

Waterlilies at Giverny
Monet Water Lilies at Giverny Print

Sketch of Woman and Umbrella
Monet Woman with Umbrella Print

Monet Poppies Print

Women in the Garden
Monet Women in a Garden Print

The Artist's Garden at Vetheuil with Boy
Monet the Artist's Garden at Vetheuil with Boy

"I can only draw what I see." Claude Monet Quotes