The Joy of Museums

Finding Beauty & Meaning in Museums

The Basin at Argenteuil

Musée d’Orsay - Joy of Museums 6

“The Basin at Argenteuil” by Claude Monet was painted during the period when he lived in Argenteuil, from December 1871 until 1878. Monet painted outdoors, and he would set up his easel out in the countryside or his garden. He would then carefully reworked the details of his canvases in his studio.

In his painting with the light and vivid colours, Monet shows his mastery of the technique of fragmented brush strokes to produce an interplay of luminous vibration. The left of the painting is dominated by the shadows of the trees planted along the Argenteuil promenade, but the significant part of the picture is given over to clouds moving across the blue sky.

This painting represents the start of a productive series of works while he stayed at Argenteuil, as Impressionism reached its peak during the Argenteuil period. Monet wrote later in life:

“My only merit, lies in having painted directly in front of nature, seeking to render my impressions before the most fleeting moments.”

This painting is one of over seventy works Monet painted of the Seine River in Argenteuil. It combines favourite themes of leisurely figures strolling, boating and bathing together with backdrops of bridges and landscape features.

Oscar-Claude Monet was a founder of French Impressionist painting, and the term “Impressionism” is derived from the title of his painting Impression, “soleil levant” or “Impression, Sunrise”, which was exhibited in 1874. Monet adopted a method of painting in which he painted the same scene many times to capture the changing of light and the passing of the seasons. Monet is known for having produced a series of paintings all versions of the same subject and perspective. Examples include his series of the “Valley of the Creuse” series and his famous series of “Haystacks” and “Water Lilies” paintings.

From 1883 Monet lived in Giverny, where at his home, he developed a garden landscape which included the lily ponds that would become the subjects of his best-known works. In 1899 he began painting the water lilies, firstly with a Japanese bridge as a central feature, and later in the series of large-scale paintings, with the water lilies as the main feature. This series occupied him for the last 20 years of his life.

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Essential Facts:

  • Title:               The Basin at Argenteuil (Le bassin d’Argenteuil)
  • Artist:             Claude Monet
  • Year:               1872
  • Medium:        Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions: 60 × 80.5 cm (23.6 × 31.7 in)
  • Museum:       Musée d’Orsay, Paris

Artist Essential Facts:

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“Everyone discusses my art and pretends to understand, as if it were necessary to understand, when it is simply necessary to love.” Claude Monet

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Photo Credit: 1) By GordonMakryllos (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons 2) Hiroshige II [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons 3) Hiroshige [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons