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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

“The Houses of Parliament, Sunset” by Claude Monet (National Gallery of Art, DC)

Westminster Parlement

“The Houses of Parliament, Sunset” by Claude Monet

“The Houses of Parliament” by Claude Monet is one in a series of paintings of the Palace of Westminster, home of the British Parliament, created during the early 1900’s while Monet stayed in London. All of the series of paintings with similar titles share the same viewpoint from Monet’s terrace at St Thomas’ Hospital overlooking the Thames. The set of pictures depict different times of the day, and different weather and light conditions, interestingly all on canvases are of approximately similar size.

This paintings viewpoint was close to that of J. M. W. Turner’s paintings of the fire that had destroyed much of the old Parliament complex in 1834. Artworks of the Thames by James McNeill Whistler also inspired Monet.

By the time of the Houses of Parliament series, Monet had ceased his earlier practice of completing a painting on the spot in front of the subject. Monet continued refining the images back at his home base in France and sometimes used photographs to help in his task. Some purist criticised this new approach, but Monet replied that his means of creating a work was his own business and it was up to the viewer to judge the final result.

Monet produced nearly a hundred views of the Thames River in London. He painted Waterloo Bridge and Charing Cross Bridge from his room in the Savoy Hotel and the Houses of Parliament from Saint Thomas’s Hospital. The artist continued to refine the paintings and wrote to his art dealer:

“I cannot send you a single canvas of London … It is indispensable to have them all before me and to tell the truth not one is definitely finished. I develop them all together.” 

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.

Exploring

Reflections

  • Which is your favourite painting of the Houses of Parliament?
  • Which is your favourite Monet series?
    • The Houses of Parliament
    • Water Lilies
    • Valley of the Creuse
    • Haystacks
    • Grand Canal, Venice
    • Rouen Cathedral

The Houses of Parliament, Sunset

  • Title:                The Houses of Parliament, Sunset
  • Français:        Le Parlement de Londres, soleil couchant
  • Artist:              Claude Monet
  • Year:                1903
  • Medium:         Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions:  81.3 × 92.5 cm (32 × 36.4 in)
  • Museum:        National Gallery of Art, DC

Claude Monet

~~~

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

– Claude Monet

~~~


Photo Credit: 1) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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