Claude Monet’s en plein air painting campaigns on the Normandy coast between 1881 and 1885, and particularly those on the picturesque cliffs around the village of Etretat, have for some time been viewed as early signs of ecological awareness. In his landscapes, Monet offers a virgin view of these places, which he experiences as a sort of uncontaminated nature and landscape reserve, systematically removing all aspects of both the fishing industry and what by his time had become an advanced form of tourism. However, this supposed ecological approach needs to be seen in a more pertinent manner, not so much in terms of a generically longed-for, organic relationship with nature as in terms of a structural and effective ecology of perception, coherent with the program drafted by Stephen Eisenman in the introduction to the volume, The Ecology of impressionism, where this essay was published. As regards Monet, this new approach is justified by a reconsideration of his works and of the related written sources, descriptions of the Etretat coast available in Monet’s – as well Guy de Maupassant’s – correspondance, compared to those published in the tourist guides he certainly used to read. Afar from the emotional approach of the Barbizon painters, Monet’s painting seems an exclusive form of en-plein-air practice, not only a retinal response to the stimuli received but the result of a more complex, energetic flow of information that is collected by means of movement, and with the involvement of the entire psychomotorial system in its adaptation and orientation within a particular environmental context. Though certainly in embryonic form, the need to consider the entire body as being involved in the vision had already been expressed by some early critics of both Impressionism and of Monet’s works, when emphasising the importance of the choice of viewpoint - a result of Monet’ exploratory walks - and its effect on the compositional form of the painting. The chromatic and gestural trace that Monet impressed upon the painting have so far been considered as an index of his physical presence. This interpretation can now be put straight, pointing to the active nature of Monet’s painting and the performative character of the vision that led to it.

Monet on the Normandy Coast. Ecology and Vision / M.G. Messina. - STAMPA. - (2010), pp. 97-106.

Monet on the Normandy Coast. Ecology and Vision

MESSINA, MARIA GRAZIA
2010

Abstract

Claude Monet’s en plein air painting campaigns on the Normandy coast between 1881 and 1885, and particularly those on the picturesque cliffs around the village of Etretat, have for some time been viewed as early signs of ecological awareness. In his landscapes, Monet offers a virgin view of these places, which he experiences as a sort of uncontaminated nature and landscape reserve, systematically removing all aspects of both the fishing industry and what by his time had become an advanced form of tourism. However, this supposed ecological approach needs to be seen in a more pertinent manner, not so much in terms of a generically longed-for, organic relationship with nature as in terms of a structural and effective ecology of perception, coherent with the program drafted by Stephen Eisenman in the introduction to the volume, The Ecology of impressionism, where this essay was published. As regards Monet, this new approach is justified by a reconsideration of his works and of the related written sources, descriptions of the Etretat coast available in Monet’s – as well Guy de Maupassant’s – correspondance, compared to those published in the tourist guides he certainly used to read. Afar from the emotional approach of the Barbizon painters, Monet’s painting seems an exclusive form of en-plein-air practice, not only a retinal response to the stimuli received but the result of a more complex, energetic flow of information that is collected by means of movement, and with the involvement of the entire psychomotorial system in its adaptation and orientation within a particular environmental context. Though certainly in embryonic form, the need to consider the entire body as being involved in the vision had already been expressed by some early critics of both Impressionism and of Monet’s works, when emphasising the importance of the choice of viewpoint - a result of Monet’ exploratory walks - and its effect on the compositional form of the painting. The chromatic and gestural trace that Monet impressed upon the painting have so far been considered as an index of his physical presence. This interpretation can now be put straight, pointing to the active nature of Monet’s painting and the performative character of the vision that led to it.
9788857207063
The Ecology of Impressionism. From Corot to Monet
97
106
M.G. Messina
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