Chasing Sunlight: Monet’s Soft Impressionist Paintings


(pictured above: Gardener's House at Antibes, 1888)

"Every day I discover more and more beautiful things. It’s enough to drive one mad." - Claude Monet

Claude Oscar Monet (1840-1926), a pioneering figure of the Impressionist movement, is renowned for his ethereal depictions of light and nature. His ability to capture fleeting moments and atmospheric effects has left a lasting mark on the art world. Along with his contemporaries, he tried to capture the effects of light on canvas, taking his easel outside and painting a wide range of subjects from sun-drenched landscapes and snow-covered mountainsides to waterlily-covered ponds in his own garden.

Monet’s Early Career:

Born in Paris in 1840, Claude Monet displayed a passion for art from a young age. He received formal training at the Académie Suisse and developed a close friendship with fellow artists Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Édouard Manet. Monet’s early works often depicted scenes of everyday life, showcasing his keen observational skills and attention to detail.

However, it was during the 1860s that Monet began to experiment with capturing the effects of light and atmosphere in his paintings. This marked the beginning of his transition towards the Impressionist style, characterized by loose brushwork, emphasis on light and colour, and a focus on capturing the essence of a moment rather than precise details.

(pictured above: Impression, Sunrise, 1872)

The Influence of Light:

Light played a central role in Monet’s work, serving as both subject and medium. He was fascinated by the way light transformed the appearance of landscapes, water, and architecture, and sought to capture its ephemeral qualities on canvas. Monet’s paintings often depict scenes at different times of the day, showcasing the changing interplay of light and shadow.


(pictured above: Branch of the Seine Near Giverny (Mist), 1897)

One of Monet’s most iconic series, the "Haystacks" and "Water Lilies," exemplifies his obsession with light. In these works, he painted the same subject at various times of the day, observing how the shifting light altered its appearance. Through rapid, gestural brushstrokes, Monet was able to convey the ever-changing nature of light and its transformative effect on the landscape.

(pictured above: Stacks, End of Summer, 1891)


(Pictured above: Grainstacks in the Sunlight, Morning Effect, 1890)

(pictured above: The Artist's Garden at Giverny, 1900)

"I am following Nature without being able to grasp her, I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers." - Claude Monet

Monet’s Techniques:

Monet’s innovative techniques were instrumental in achieving his signature soft, atmospheric style. He famously painted in oil and oil pastels en plein air, or outdoors, allowing him to directly observe and capture the effects of natural light. This approach enabled him to infuse his paintings with a sense of immediacy and spontaneity, as well as a vibrant, luminous quality.

(pictured above: close-up of Gardener's House at Antibes, 1888)

In addition to his use of rapid brushwork, Monet also employed a technique known as "alla prima," or wet-on-wet, which involved applying layers of paint while the previous layers were still wet. This allowed him to create seamless transitions between colours and capture the subtle nuances of light and shadow.

Monet’s Colour Theory:

"Colour is my day-long obsession, joy, and torment." - Claude Monet

Monet was a master of colour harmony and juxtaposition. He often used complementary colours to enhance the vibrancy of his paintings and create a sense of depth and movement. He also limited his use of earth tones, which amplified the richness of the colours used. By carefully orchestrating the interplay of warm and cool tones, he was able to evoke the atmospheric effects of sunlight filtering through foliage or dancing on the surface of water.

(pictured above: Bridge over a Pond of Water Lilies, 1899)

Colour theory played a pivotal role in Monet’s artistic practice, guiding his choice of palette and composition. He believed that colour should be used expressively, to evoke mood and atmosphere rather than simply depict reality. Monet’s paintings are characterised by a harmonious interplay of hues, with subtle variations in tone and intensity creating a sense of depth and dimension. He observed that colours appeared more vibrant in direct sunlight, while they took on cooler, more subdued tones in the shade. By carefully observing these nuances, Monet was able to capture the transient beauty of light and atmosphere in his paintings.


(pictured above: Water Lilies, 1906)

“One instant, one aspect of nature contains it all,” said Claude Monet

Claude Monet’s soft Impressionist paintings continue to captivate audiences with their luminous beauty and ethereal quality. Through his innovative techniques and profound understanding of light and colour, he was able to transcend the constraints of traditional realism and create works that are as timeless as they are enchanting.


Need more inspiration? Here are some gorgeous books on Monet’s career to browse through:


For the readers:

For a shorter read:

For the picture lovers:

For kids: 




Dreamy art prints:

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