Monet Woman with a Parasol – Madame Monet and Her Son

Claude Monet painted Woman with a Parasol – Madame Monet and Her Son while in Argenteuil, France, in 1875. Monet was producing some of his most popular works during the period in which he painted Woman with a Parasol.

In 1871 Monet moved from England to the Netherlands, and then to Argenteuil, France where he would live for six years. Argenteuil is just a fifteen-minute train ride from Paris making it an ideal get-away for Parisians looking to take a break from the city. By the mid 1800’s, factories had sprung up in the small town, but it still provided picturesque landscapes and a quaint setting to relax in. For impressionist painters, Argenteuil provided a town full of inspiration.

In Monet’s Woman with a Parasol – Madame and Her Son, we see just that – a woman with a parasol, or an umbrella, and a child. Argenteuil was a popular place for families to go for walks, and that is what Monet painted. In the middle of the painting is the figure of a woman his wife Camille. She stands on the top of a hill with a blue sky as a backdrop. The woman is wearing a white dress and jacket, which blows in the wind and twirls as she turns towards the viewer. Monet was a painter who experimented with light and color, and that can be seen in the color of the woman’s clothes. The figure is wearing white, but because the sun is behind her, she is seen in shadow, and her white attire appears blue. In her hands, she hoWoman with a Parasol by Claude Monetlds a green umbrella, and she looks at the viewer. Farther down the hill, opposite the viewer, a young boy stands also looking to the viewer. He is only visible from the waist up his legs hidden behind the green grass and yellow flowers that grow on the hill.

Woman with a Parasol is representative of Monet and impressionism in many ways, and Argenteuil provided the ideal setting. Monet was looking at the world and depicting it in way that had not been done before. The contrast of a town full of industry and still a vacation spot appealed to these artists. Impressionists celebrated the working class, families, and modern landscapes – all of which could be found in this town just outside of Paris. Prior to impressionism Academies determined what art would be shown and celebrated. By doing so, they essentially determined what art artists should make. Artists like Monet, Renoir, and the other impressionists made the decision to form a group and show their work together – without the judgment of the Academies. Woman with a Parasol was shown in the second of these group exhibitions.

Getting away from the constraints of the Academies meant that Monet could paint subjects like this – his family on an afternoon walk. In the painting, the viewer is in the spot that Monet would have been. So, when we see the figures looking towards us, they are in fact looking towards Monet. By showing them like this, it is as if we interrupted them on their stroll, and they have taken a momentary pause to glance over. This spontaneity in a portrait was a new convention used by Monet. Rather than paint a portrait of his family in a setting with a typical portraiture pose, he shows them in everyday life.  That, combined with the quick visible brushstrokes, creates an effect that the scene is taking place in real time. And, while the painting was completed in one day, it took several hours.

Monet was a master of capturing a moment, a glimpse, in time. In his series paintings he shows the effect changes in light and atmosphere can have on a subject. In Woman with a Parasol – Madame Monet and Her Son, Monet shows this fleeting moment with a simple glance rather than color.

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