Mark Harden's Artchive Monet, Claude
The Red Kerchief: Portrait of Camille Monet
probably late 1860s - early 1870s
Oil on canvas
99 x 79.3 cm (39 x 31 1/4 in.)
The Cleveland Museum of Art

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The colors of this work are uncharacteristically muted. Only the red kerchief screams out, calling our attention to the figure outside. It is notable that she is specifically identified as the artist's wife in the title. The doorway or window is of course a standard painting motif; however, it is normally opened to allow a panoramic outside view. Here poor Mrs. Monet is not only locked out, but is obviously cold, grasping her coat to keep out the snowy chill. For a window composition, the perspective is surprisingly shallow. The horizon line, at Camille's elbow, flattens the picture. The result is that she is almost pushed up against the glass, as if begging to be let in from the cold. This is a disturbing canvas, expressing deep conflicts in the relationship of Claude and Camille Monet. We know that by late 1876, Monet had fallen in love with Alice Hoschede, the wife of one of his dealers, who bore his son Jean-Pierre two years prior to Camille's death.

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