Paintings You Should Know: ‘Impression: Sunrise’ by Claude Monet, 1872

10 Monet Impression Sunrise 1872
Monet, ‘Impression: Sunrise’, 1872

Although the term ‘Impressionism’ was already in use to describe a style of painting emerging in France in the latter part of the 1800s it was Monet’s use of the word as an off-the-cuff name for this 1872 work (in French, ‘Impression, soleil levant’) which led to its formal and widespread adoption.

‘Impression: Sunrise’ was painted in Monet’s hometown, Le Havre, in 1872, and is one of a series of works depicting the port at various times of day. There is no deep meaning to this picture; Monet is not trying to convey a message but rather an overall sense of an immediate scene. An ‘impression’.

The palate is restricted primarily to grey-blues, with only a small amount of orange streaking the sky and centred on the glowing orb of the sun. The small fishing boats in the foreground stand out in darker contrast; the masts of ships further away are almost lost in the mist.

‘Impression: Sunrise’ is a small picture painted in oil on canvas and measuring 48cm by 63cm. It was first exhibited in 1874 in a collection of works by such painters as Renoir, Sisley, and Degas as well as sculptures, engravings, and the like. It is now held at the Musée Marmottan Monet in Paris.

What’s your impression of Monet’s ‘Impression’?

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