Monet painted the “Houses on the Bank of the River Zaan” rapidly and spontaneously. He did not lay out a detailed composition plan on the canvas before taking his palette in hand, but merely indicated a few points with charcoal. He also experimented with his paints and methods of paint application, departing entirely from the traditional painting technique taught at the academy.
The artist made only a rapid sketch of his compositional idea, consisting of a few points and lines on the primed canvas, before embarking on the painterly execution. An examination of the work’s surface with a stereo microscope reveals a few particles of charcoal between adjacent zones of colour on the house at the centre. No underdrawing can be found for elements such as the house at the right, the trees, human figures and clouds. Monet added these motifs during the painting process.
Monet executed the work with quick, loose brushstrokes. To depict the river in the foreground he painted strips of blue, brown, green and pink next to and one above the other – and left them that way. This work is by no means a sketch, but a finished painting. Nevertheless, the priming, which actually serves as a base for the painting, shows through between the individual strips, forming an additional shade of colour in its own right.
Gain further insights into the technological examination and conservation of selected works.
Edgar Degas: “The Orchestra Musicians” (1872)
Gustave Courbet: “The Wave” (1869)
Camille Corot: “Summer Landscape” (1855)
Félix Ziem: “Dutch River Landscape with Windmills” (1850–1853)
Auguste Renoir: “After the Luncheon” (1879)
Claude Monet: “The Luncheon” (1868/69)