Saint Lazare Train Station Monet Analysis Essay

Sophisticated, radical and yet devoted to the history of his medium, Manet was the perpetual rebel of the official Salon, doggedly submitting work to nearly all its exhibitions from 1861 until his death in 1886. In many of these years, Manet's seductively subversive images scandalized the public and critics alike, especially ''Le Dejeuner sur l'Herbe,'' seen in 1863 at the Salon des Refuses, and his forthright nude ''Olympia,'' seen in the Salon of 1865. But he refused to abandon the possibility of official recognition or to exhibit independently with the slightly younger artists known as Impressionists, whose work he had influenced and whose leader was, arguably, Monet.

Monet, Manet and other artists had studios in the Quartier de l'Europe, the neighborhood around the St.-Lazare station.

The show's central image is ''The Railway'' of 1873 by Manet, which was the first painting to claim the St.-Lazare station as an emblem of ''the wonders of industrialization,'' in the words of one art historian. At times, this show can feel a bit scattered. Each of its five galleries makes a different point, like a succession of research papers grouped around a central subject. But it is anchored by substantial groups of work by both Manet and Monet.

From Monet's brush there is a series of 11 paintings, reunited here for the first time, that he produced from different vantage points inside the station in 1877, after he gained permission to set up his easel under its soaring glass roof. They are his first series clearly devoted to varying views of a single subject, precursors of his better-known images of haystacks and the facade of Rouen Cathedral, from the 1890's, and the English Houses of Parliament and the waterlilies at Giverny after 1900.

From this central core, the show spreads out in several directions. In the first two galleries, the ambitiousness of Haussmann's plan is evident from Paris maps of the time. In the next gallery, a group of Manet's prints of dead soldiers, barricades and the civilian uprising in the city's streets give some sense of the trauma of the recent war and the Commune, and of Manet's sensitivity to it. Also here is Henri Fantin-Latour's quietly celebratory ''Studio in the Batignolles,'' a group portrait of contemporary painters that includes Monet, Renoir, Bazille and the writer Zola. Manet is at the center, before his easel, the teacher among his disciples.

Next comes a glorious gallery, centered on ''The Railway,'' that is worth the entire visit. Like all Manet's best paintings, this work is at once unsettling, austere and alluring. It features a well-dressed young woman, seated by an iron fence with an open book and a sleeping puppy in her lap, who gazes upon us with mild curiosity. Next to her is a beautifully coiffed and attired Parisian child with her back to us. She grasps one of the vertical bars of the fence, which measures off the painting's surface in ribbons of paint and space as wide as the thick sash of her dress, as she looks down on the the rail yard, where an arriving locomotive is all but obscured by clouds of billowing white steam.

''The Railway'' was widely ridiculed when first introduced in the Salon of 1874, and the show includes the sharply satiric newspaper cartoons to prove it. (Some cartoonists insisted that the bars of the fence were keeping the models in the picture; others, in an insane asylum.) Here it is flanked by two other equally enigmatic, formally daring Manets: ''Young Lady of 1866 (Woman With a Parrot)'' from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and ''The Street Singer'' from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, with their broad areas of uninflected color, puzzling expressions, inexplicable accouterments and sly art historical references.

The Young Lady appears in a glamorously plain pink pegnoire, a monocle around her neck and a quizzically intimate look on her face, as if directed at a male companion. (The image may have been painted in response to Courbet's ''Woman With a Parrot,'' a nude that may itself have been a response to Manet's ''Olympia.'') The Street Singer, in her gray triangle of a dress, is shown leaving a cafe too well turned out for her job; she grasps a guitar and her gathered skirt in one hand and in the other holds a bunch of red grapes to her mouth, a gesture of provocative, inherently sexual indolence at odds with her brisk, businesslike demeanor.

The model in all three paintings is Victorine Meurent, the slightly tough, level-gazed beauty who posed for both ''Dejeuner'' and ''Olympia.'' Except in ''The Street Singer,'' she wears around her neck the thin black ribbon that is so prominent in ''Olympia.''

In the next gallery we see other artists tackle St.-Lazare, gaining a sharper appreciation of Manet's radicalness and importance. Working in a fairly academic manner that is better than his later, more devoutly Impressionistic mode, Caillebotte selects the powerful girders of the Pont de l'Europe as a dramatically impersonal backdrop for Parisian boulevardiers, sometimes depicting the walkway on which they stroll in plunging perspective.

A striking contrast with this work is a small painting of almost photographic if also saccharine refinement by Jean Beraud, who retreats to the opposite side of the bridge, deflating the girders' imposing scale. He fills the middle distance with a cast of exquisitely dressed men and women as carefully placed as cut-out paper dolls (none of the figures overlap), who seem about to burst into song -- say, the ''Ascot Gavotte'' from ''My Fair Lady.''

Finally, in the fourth gallery, Monet has his say, in the 11 works from 1877, painted from inside the station looking out and showing curling clouds of steam against the sky at different times of day. These images are strikingly different from Manet's emphasis on the individual participants in modern life, their dress, carriage and psychology.

For Monet, industry was in effect another form of nature. Events unfold at a distance: the roiling or drifting steam dwarfs the trains, the trains dwarf the blurred, shadowy crowds clustered about them. And throughout, Monet's quick nervous brushwork holds sway, experimenting with different textures and rhythms in each painting.

In ''Gare St.-Lazare: Arrival of a Train,'' the steam rises in tight, almost Futuristic curls; in ''Le Pont de l'Europe (Gare St.-Lazare),'' it is spread about in thin atmospheric patches. Elsewhere it is tinged with the pink of sunset or it accumulates in horizontal elongated patches that, if one turned the paintings upside down, would resemble the artist's late waterlily paintings.

Embracing one of the most aggressive symbols of modern progress, Monet still kept his priorities straight. The story goes that, delighted by the shifting subtleties of his vistas, he said: ''They will need to delay the Rouen train. The light is better a half-hour after its departure time.''

''Manet, Monet and the Gare St.-Lazare'' remains at the National Gallery of Art, Fourth Street at Constitution Avenue N.W., Washington, through Sept. 20.

Continue reading the main story

Seetharam Vallabhaneni
Marin R Sullivan
Art History
October 15, 2012
Formal Analysis Assignment
In 1877 Claude Monet started to work on series of paintings of the Gare Saint-Lazare Train Station in Paris.   The Arrival of the Normandy Train, Gare Saint-Lazare (c. 1877) by Claude Monet is the most recognized painting from this series; it is also one of the most famous impressionist works till date. It is a huge representation measuring 59.6 x 80.2 cm, it also has a low vanishing point that gives the painting a very flat look.
Claude Monet was one of the pioneers of the Impressionist movement and all of his 19th century works are heavily influenced by impressionism. Similarly The Arrival of the Normandy Train, Gare Saint-Lazare is considered one of the best Impressionists works and is also one of the most recognized impressionist works after the impression, Sunrise and The Cradle.

The Arrival of the Normandy Train, Gare Saint-Lazare is an oil painting on canvas. This work, like many of the other Impressionist era works of Monet has visible brush strokes that add texture to the painting. The color palette has been kept very simple. Monet mostly uses hues of blue throughout the composition. The smoke from the trains has been perfectly represented; this painting captures the exact texture and feel of smoke. This is done through multiple layering of paint, thus giving it texture and also some weight. Most of the shadows have been painted using complementary colors, however in some cases Monet uses the same color as the body just slightly darker (The trains are mostly blue and shadows of the Trains are darker shades of blue). The brush strokes seem very heavy yet appear to be very calculated and subtle. They also seem very rough in the manner of application as though the artist was painting this work at a quick pace and suggesting perfection (as in the smooth blended...

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