Monet’s use of color along with use of intricate brush strokes and composition
is outstanding. The vast variations of brush strokes and color placement
techniques are what make his work so unique and individual. Grand Canal, Venice,
1908 is a prime example of Monet’s talents in these areas. The structure of the
painting is very loose. There are few hard lines in the composition that
represents solid structure. The curves in conjunction with the shades of color
as well as light usage give the piece a mirage-like effect. It is easy to
imagine Monet’s vantage point while he was painting the picture by the way the
composition is set up. One can tell he was looking towards the buildings on the
other side of water because it’s obvious that the building are being reflected
as well as the wooden poles sticking out of the water. It is quite evident that
Monet is observing a sunset and that he is painting quickly to capture the full
effect of light during this short period of the day with the study of light
being the main focus in this work. Shadow also plays a large part in the make up
the painting. Monet uses an even tonality of blues, lavenders, oranges and pinks
to create the buildings across the water, thus showing the sunlight reflecting
off the sides of them. It’s quite amazing how he uses many different colors to
create one large color. For instance, in the sky he uses a mixture of greens,
pinks, oranges and blues to create the feeling of dusk as the sun slowly sets to
the right of the picture. In the far edge of the water he uses greens and blues
with a hint of lavender here and there to show the darkness of the water behind
the buildings where the sunlight isn’t reaching. When the water comes closer to
the bottom of the painting there is a heavier use of oranges, yellows and pinks
creating a golden mirror-like effect reflecting the light coming off of the
buildings. At this point it is hard to determine if the sunlight is actually
striking the surface of the water or if it is just the reflection of the sun off
of the buildings alone. Once one looks at the poles sticking out of the water
it’s easier to determine if the sun is hitting the water or not. It must be
hitting a good portion of the water because only the closest pole is dark, with
no sun hitting it, but the poles which are farther away have light, then again
it may just be the reflection of the light off of the buildings. This is why the
painting has such a mirage-like effect because the viewer cannot really decipher
what he or she is supposed to perceive the work as. The actual form of the
building is less evident due to the brilliant atmosphere of the painting making
it quite clear that Monet’s main concern with this piece, as well as many of his
others, is light. How he uses color to express his concern for light is
outstanding. In this particular piece Monet uses sketch-like brush strokes to
create the main objects of the scene. The water consists of numerous horizontal
brush stokes in varying color to create the look of reflection. The buildings
are more blended and the use of impasto is less evident mainly in the sky. The
surface of the painting from the upper parts of the building to the top of the
canvas gets smoother as the eye rises. The layering of the colors in the water
and heavier strokes of paint allow Monet to create the reflectiveness he is
trying to accomplish in order to portray the time of day. The use of smaller
strokes and lighter colors over the heavier strokes and darker colors
strengthens the effect of the sunlight on the water. For the sky Monet blends
the colors together and uses very light shades of them to create the pastel,
soft, late day effect. For the buildings he uses a more erratic technique,
blending less than the sky. He tends to follow through with the stroke and use
less paint to cover more area at a time, unlike the fast, thicker strokes used
in the water. Monet is a genius when it comes to using many different colors and
brush strokes to create one specific tone of a color and create specific effects
with those colors. For example, from a distance the largest pole coming out of
the water seems to be mainly brownish-blue color but up close it is actually a
conglomeration of purples, greens, reds, oranges and even some black. The same
holds true in the rest of the painting. The water is especially intriguing.

Monet uses such a vast array of colors mixed together to create the reflective
aspect he is trying to portray. It looks as if he started with the darker colors
along the edge of the buildings working his way toward the bottom of the canvas.

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The brush strokes look very quick and abrupt as if he was painting hastily. Once
the bluish tones of the water were established Monet continues to work his way
towards the bottom of the canvas using layers. He moves into greens and
continues to layer with lighter and lighter colors working in conjunction with
the colors used to create the shadow and light on the buildings above. The pinks
and oranges begin to play a key role in portraying the reflection in the top
layers on paint. The final layers of paint also tend to be thicker than the
rest. This gives the impression (no pun intended) that this portion of the
painting may have been rushed, or maybe even completed at a later time due to
the fact that Monet was trying to capture the effects of light at a particular
time of day. When one looks much closer it looks as if the actual reflection was
captured at the time of the painting on the underneath layers of paint. The more
I look at the painting I begin to believe that Monet went over the painting
again adding the thicker, smaller strokes of varying color in order to accent
the rest of the painting. These particular details seem to occur only in the
water and seem to have taken some undetermined length of time to think about it.

However, the length of time taken seems to be greater than them amount of time
Monet had to paint since the time of day he is working with doesn’t allow much
time for thinking. These particular techniques seem to be very effective and
appropriate for the subject. Monet is basically painting a study of light in
this piece. The varying brush strokes and wildly variable use of color brings
out the effect of light in this piece magnificently. Though he is using a
limited number of colors he can still manage to create a specific tone of color
with what he is using. It seems as if Monet is trying to get across to the
viewer what it is really like to witness a sunset on the Grande Canal and how
fascinating the actual colors are. The view seems to lack a certain
“crispness” though as if the air was heavy or moisture filled, in turn
making the building across from him less detailed allowing Monet to focus on the
aspect of shadow in the composition instead of being distracted by the detail of
the buildings. The same can be said about the water. The thick moist air seems
to act a prism allowing Monet to scatter the different colors all over the
canvas, still making it known that it is water, especially by implementing the
reflective techniques which he has used so greatly. I think that Monet had a
passion for studying light and it’s effects with the use of color and considered
this particular viewpoint an excellent opportunity to further his studies. I
believe he enjoyed exploring reflections on water and maybe wanted to encourage
others to do the same, not necessarily exploring reflections on water but to
explore anything which he/she may have a passion for. With Monet in particular,
his juxtaposition of complimentary colors allowed him to gain the effect he was
going for in his study of reflections, especially in the Grand Canal, Venice,

Pete Sanchez Art History – J. Russell 04-21-00 Claude Monet Grand Canal,
Venice, 1908 Museum of Fine Arts Oil on canvas Bequest of Alexander Cochrane,
1919 19.171