Claude Monet: From Sunrise at the Musée Marmottan Monet to Sunset at the Petit Palais, Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris


I have been living in Paris for over two years now and I still get excited to think that I can stroll to the Musée Marmottan Monet within ten minutes and see the painting which gave it’s name to Impressionism. This painting is of course Claude Monet’s ‘Impression, soleil levant’ (Impression, Sunrise), a beautiful painting executed by Monet in 1872. The subject is the port of Le Harve where Monet had moved when he was a child. It is dawn and the scene is hazy except for the ball of red-orange sun which has started to rise over the port and whose rays are reflected in the motionless water. The viewer is drawn to this red-orange sun ball which stands out against the greyer hues of the rest of the painting. The viewer is further drawn to the small row boats in the foreground the most prominent of which seems to have two figures on board. The rest of the scene which is of the industrialised port seems to fade into the background. The whole effect of the painting is both calm and eerie and despite the industrial setting  of the painting, there is still a sort of beauty about it.

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Impression, soleil levant, 1872 by Claude Monet
Claude Monet (1840-1926)  was part of a group of artists who turned their backs on academic painting  which they found restrictive and who instead preferred to paint ordinary everyday subjects often ‘en plein air’ i.e. outdoors. Academic art was more concerned with historical and religious subjects painted in clear lines and contours giving a realistic and fine finish. This was in stark contrast to this new group of artists  whose paintings captured the moment, ignoring linear perspective to portray an impression of the subject. These artists lightened their palettes again in strong contrast to academic art which preferred sombre tones. The academic establishment did not approve of this new style of painting considering the works incomplete and mere sketches. As this esatablishment controlled the Salons (the only way an artist could have his worked viewed), their works were usually rejected by them. Eventually, in 1873 the artists formed a group calling itself The Anonymous Society of Painters, Sculptors and Printmakers and began exhibiting their own paintings in opposition to the official Salons. Monet’s painting, Impression, soleil levant was shown at the group’s first exhibition held in 1874  where it was ridiculed by the critics. In this vein the critic, Louis Leroy referred to the painting  mockingly as ‘Impressionism’ and the name stuck. Little did Leroy realise that he had coined the name for one of the most famous art movements ever!

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Sunset on the Seine at Lavacourt, Winter Effect, 1880 by Claude Monet

And then, I discovered by chance whilst strolling through the Petit Palais, Musée des Beaux-Arts de La Ville de Paris, Monet’s ‘Soleil couchant sur la Seine à Lavacourt, effet d’hiver (Sunset on the Seine at Lavacourt, Winter Effect) . I had never heard of this painting but I found it  amazing that on my doorstep there was one museum exhibiting Monet’s famous Sunrise and a different museum showing one of his Sunsets. This particular sunset was painted by Monet in 1880 in Vétheuil where he had been living with his family since 1878. The winter of 1879/1880 was one of the harshest in history  with the Seine freezing over. Monet painted over 20 canvases of the changing scenes caused by this weather spell. One of these was Soleil couchant sur la Seine à Lavacourt, effet d’hiver (Sunset on the Seine at Lavacourt, Winter Effect. Lavacourt was a village situated on the opposite side of the Seine to Vétheuil and in winter the sun set behind it. The setting sun on a winters day and all its effect is the subject matter of the painting.The painting has a similar red-orange sun as Impression, soleil levant but the painting is less hazy and eerie in its overall effect. This painting didn’t produce the name for an art movement like Impression,soleil levant did, but it is also a beautiful painting and it is well worth complementing a visit to the Musée Marmottan Monet with a visit to the Petit Palais to view these two paintings on the one day!

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Musée Marmottan Monet
Entry to the Musée Marmottan Monet is €11 for an adult so it might be a bit extravagant to visit just to view one painting. So you can take your time at the Musée Marmottan Monet as it is a very interesting museum. It was originally built as a hunting lodge in the 19th century and ultimately purchased by Jules Marmottan who left it to his son Paul, an avid art collector. On his death Paul Marmottan left the mansion to the Académie des Beaux-Arts who opened it up as a museum. The museum was further enhanced in 1966 when Monet’s son Michel donated his own collection of his fathers works to the museum resulting in the museum owning the largest collection of Monet paintings in the world including some amazing lilies  which can still be viewed here today. The museum collection also includes a large body of work by Berthe Morisot the female french impressionist.

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Café at the Petit Palais
There is no coffee shop at the museum so when you are finished your visit and you want to see both Monet’s Sunrise and Sunset on the same day, head straight to the Petit Palais where there is a lovely café in the heart of the museum which opens onto a tranquil courtyard and garden complete with colonnades. Entry to the Petit Palais is free so after coffee or lunch, you can simply seek out Monet’s Soleil Couchant (Sunset) and complete the tour!

16 thoughts on “Claude Monet: From Sunrise at the Musée Marmottan Monet to Sunset at the Petit Palais, Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris

  1. I’m impressed middle sister! Very well written and full of useful information and observation. Keep up the very good and informative work😊👍👩‍🎨

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  2. Well done Diana. I loved reading about Monet and the sunrise & sunset paintings and the back story information you offered was very informative. The photos you’ve selected to input are enticing me back to Paris! Very nicely written… I look forward to following your blog.

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    1. Thanks Elaine. It’s a great time to come to Paris, not only is ´spring in the air’ but if you are interested in art there are many exciting exhibitions about to start like the one in Musee Maillol which is centered on Paul Rosenberg, an extremely influential art dealer in the first half of the 2oth century. I am off there today !

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  3. Congrats Diane from your old neighbour Mary Glynn . Excellent writing not sure we had the same English teacher or where you simply a great student. The very best with new blog .

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  4. Merci Diana pour ce petit voyage du lever au coucher… Cela donne envie. En tant que parisienne, il faut absolument que je tente l’aventure! Personnellement, petite préférence pour le coucher. 🙂

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  5. Great blog Diana congratulations ! I am delighted to see you are putting your time to good use! Really looking forward to your next one. Don’t forget Vincent Van Gogh !

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  6. Really enjoyed your blog on my favourite impressionist art. Lucky you to be in Paris in the spring and visiting the galleries. I am off to London on Friday to the National gallery to see an exhibition of Australian Impressionist paintings. Paris beckons!!

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  7. Oh Diana, I felt like I was back in Paris when I was reading your blog. Your love for Paris comes through with every word. You made me homesick for Paris and for its museums. I’m thrilled you are enjoying your adventure.
    xxo, susan

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  8. The Marmottan is one of our favourite places to visit in Paris. The first time we went was 30 odd years ago and shortly after “Impression Sunrise ” was stolen. They’d recovered it the next time we visited quite a few years later.

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