Claude Monet, ‘Poplars’, 1891, Philadelphia Museum of Art

In the summer of 1891, Monet began to paint a row of poplar trees that lined the river Epte near his house at Giverny. The trees were auctioned off for timber shortly thereafter, but Monet made a deal with the purchaser to delay cutting them so that he could continue to paint the trees through the autumn. Using a shallow rowboat that had slots in the bottom capable of holding several canvases at once, Monet painted twenty-four pictures of the poplars from his floating studio. The resulting paintings reflect the view at different seasons and times of day and were known as the Poplar Series when they were exhibited in February 1892. Monet's efforts to record the scene were so exacting, one friend reported, that the artist sometimes had only seven minutes to work on a particular canvas before the sunlight shifted on the leaves. This particular painting is distinguished by the strong vertical presence of three tree trunks in the foreground, offset by a sinuous line of trees that winds along the riverbank in the distance. Vigorous diagonal brushwork in the reeds lining the riverbank and in the leaves of the receding trees suggests a windy day in autumn. Jennifer A. Thompson, from Masterpieces from the Philadelphia Museum of Art: Impressionism and Modern Art (2007), p. 76.

The Chester Dale Collection, 1951

About Claude Monet

A founding member of the Impressionist movement in the late 1800s, Claude Monet was interested in direct observation and perceptual study, particularly depicting the effects of light and shadow on color. A proponent of en plein air painting, Monet is most famous for his series depicting haystacks (1891), poplars (1892), the Rouen Cathedral (1894), and water lilies (1910-20). In each series, Monet painted the same site repeatedly, recording how the appearance changed as the light shifted. His final mural-sized paintings depicting the pond on his Giverny estate feature water lilies and water emerging from almost-abstract compositions of broad strokes of bright color and intricately built-up textures. Shortly after Monet died at age 86, the French government installed his last water-lilies series in specially constructed galleries at the Orangerie in Paris, where they remain today.

French, 1840-1926, Paris, France, based in Giverny, France