Lilacs in the Sun
Claude Monet, 1872 Pushkin Museum, Moscow
Lilacs in the Sun
Claude Monet painted these two canvases in the garden of his first home in Argenteuil, near Paris, in spring 1872.
Characters are seated under a bush of lilacs in bloom.One of the two paintings is done when the sky is overcast, the other one when the sun shines. The composition is the same, apart from the light, there is only one minor change : two persons in one painting, three in the other one.
For the first time, Monet put his easel on the same spot to study changes in the light. His intention is made clear by the titles he chose.
According to Sylvie Patin, Chief Curator of musee d'Orsay in Paris, where Lilacs,Grey Weather can be seen, these two works can be considered as the first step in direction of the series, a method Monet would apply systematically ten years later.
In these two paintings, Monet went on with his researches on the way how human figur can be integrated into the landscape. The characters are grouped together in the center of the lower part of the canvas. One can hardly make out their figures in the shadow, while the bright blooming lilacs bush seems to play the main part.
In Lilacs, Grey Weather, Monet used muted colors for the characters, merging them into the background. Where are the legs of the man leaning on the right ? The only thing that catches the eye is the white dress of a woman. Then, a closer look enables to distinguish the three people thanks to the black and white contrast.
The process is different in Lilacs in the Sun. Spots of light play
on the dresses of the two models. Monet applied this effect in several paintings
(The Luncheon, Women in a Garden, the Reader...) The eye is caught
by the strong contrasts created by these touches of light colors, then one
discovers the face of the young woman on the right-it could be Camille, Monet's
This time the characters are integrated into the composition by a play on colors that form a cross. The blue dress of the woman on the left refers to the blue of the lilac on the right, the yellow dress of the woman on the right answers the yellow of the trunk and of the bush on the left.
The oblique lines of the trunk underline this crossed composition. The bush leaned towards the people seems to offer its protection. Although the scene is taken in a garden, it doesn't give a formal impression, it looks like a natural landscape, the cahracters are seated on the ground as if they were in wild nature.
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Texts A. Cauderlier.
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Last Modified : Thursday, 21-Sep-2006 09:19:01 EDT