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Monet: Autumn Effect at Argenteuil

Overall qualities

There are many overall qualities that appeal to me greatly. Over time I have discovered details, which I regularly go back to, partly to reassure myself that they are still there, and partly because they lead me on to discover other new details.

The quality of sunlight seen from a distance, the picture gives an instant and brilliant impression of the quality of sunlight and the colours that are so characteristic of autumn. Close up, this effect is lost but my eye is captivated by the rich textures, the brush strokes and the quality of the paint surface all woven together with a sensuous effect.

I find it is a pleasingly balanced composition where the shapes above the horizon are mirrored by the shapes below the horizon the reflections in the water. The balance is not precise but for me the harmonious balance is an important element in the calm and soothing mood of the painting.

Monet was fascinated by textures, not just the texture and brush strokes of his own paintings but the textures visible in nature. Here I can see him painting the clouds with a soft rounded stroke to imitate their woolly texture; then painting the river with short horizontal strokes to suggest its smooth but gently rippled surface. I like the way the brush strokes along the bottom edge of the picture are relatively large and bold, and are then graded so that they become smaller as the eye is led into the distance.

Colours have temperatures in the sense that yellows and reds are warm, and blues are cool. Monet often played with contrasts of colour temperatures. For example in this picture he places warm reds and oranges next to cool blues to create the impression of warmth combined with freshness one of the special qualities of a sunlit autumn day when the sun still remains warm but there is the first hint of winter chill in the air.

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