Mark Harden's Artchive Monet, Claude
The Highway Bridge at Argenteuil
1874
Oil on canvas
60 x 79.7 cm (23 5/8 x 31 3/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington

 

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In this painting, Monet weaves a complex composition of interconnected forms. The foundation of the arrangement is four horizontal bands: the near shore, the water, the far shore and the sky. A pattern of shapes and lines is then overlaid to tie the different areas of the composition together. The dominant link is the bridge which on the pictorial level spans the river to bind the shores; on a compositional level, it spans the entire arrangement, connected to and linking all four of the basic forms in the painting. The boats provide an interesting latticework of lines with their masts and rigging. The central mast joins the water, far shore and sky, while the echoing lower mast connects visually all the way down to the unseen portion of the near shore. The cropping of this mast at the bottom of the canvas, a favorite Impressionist device, provides an especially dynamic link between the near shore (and by extension the very feet of the viewer) and the sky. The composition of this work is extremely pleasing to the eye, which is led effortlessly across the canvas and back again, into depth and returned to the picture plane, in a constant dynamic interplay of lines and forms.

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