Chicago: Monet’s Series Stacks of Wheat in Art Institute of Chicago 2011/09/19


Claude Monet,1840年11月14日 ─ 1926年12月5日,印象主義 (Impressionism) 的創立者之一,而且只有他終其一生都堅持著印象主義的原則和目標。乾草堆連作 (Haystacks),是莫內最早的系列創作。芝加哥藝術中心得天獨厚,擁有六張不同場景的「乾草堆」,藉這連續的畫作,可以看到莫內在同一主題中對「時間」的關注,那是莫內等了又等,觀察著太陽和光影,運用匆匆幾筆,捕捉住一束光,或是一片浮雲,他所要獵取的就是同一主題在不同光線和空氣下那一瞬間的變化。然而這個變化除了所見物體本身因光線和空氣所產生的改變外,還有時間加諸在此物體所造成物體本身的變化;因此莫內油彩所記錄的是觀看的整個過程。It is not just color and lights that fascinated Monet but also the changing character of the stacks in time.

“Haystacks” is the title of a series of impressionist paintings by Claude Monet. The primary subjects of all of the paintings in the series are stacks of hay located almost outside the door of his two-acre farmhouse in Giverny, France. The title refers primarily to a twenty-five canvas series (Wildenstein Index Number 1266-1290) begun in the end of summer of 1890 and continued through the following spring, using that year’s harvest. May 4, 1891, Claude Monet exhibited the fifteen paintings of “stacks of wheat” at the Paris gallery of Paul Durand-Ruel. (Before the exhibition of the fifteen stacks even opened, ten of them had been sold.) For the first time there was no hostile reaction, only unanimous praise. Collectors flocked to the exhibition, especially Americans, including Chicagoan Bertha Honoré Palmer. She eventually purchased ten versions of the subject, two of which are in the collection of the Art Institute. The haystack paintings now are scattered in museums and collections all over the world. Even the Louvre in Paris has only one. But if you enter the Art Institute of Chicago, six of the haystack paintings line the wall, five of them from the original group exhibited by Durand-Ruel. This is the largest concentration of this series to be found anywhere.

From left to right: excerpt from

Stack of Wheat, 1890/91

Monet’s fellow artist and friend, Camille Pissarro, saw the work he said:”… the effect is both luminous and masterly is uncontestable. The colors are at once attractive and strong, the drawing beautiful… it is the work of a very great artist.”

For this series and for many of the following ones, Monet developed a strict painting regimen. Earlier in his career he would go out into nature and paint rapidly in the open light. It was the quick and evanescent “impression” that he was intent on capturing. Beginning with the haystacks series his vision turned more introspective.

Stack of Wheat (Thaw, Sunset), 1890/91

Much critical study of Monet’s various series, especially of the haystacks and of the Rouen cathedral façade, focuses on the nature of the light, along with how colors and that light—incident, reflected, and refracted, contribute to the overall “character” of the painting. But the element of time is also present in the work and Monet spoke directly to it. As his study of the stacks became more intent, as the stacks themselves became more familiar as unique objects, he said that he felt:” For me the landscape hardly exists at all as landscape, because its appearance is constantly changing… but it lives by virtue of its surroundings—the air and light.”

Stacks of Wheat (Sunset, Snow Effect), 1890/91

Stacks of Wheat (End of Summer), 1890/91

A Dutch critic wrote of the effect these paintings had on him. At first he says he sought to escape their intense colors and textures that assault his sensibilities with:” Gaudy colors, these zigging lines, blues, yellows, greens, reds, browns, dancing crazily on the canvas [but finally] irresistibly compelled by this medley of colors to recreate the artist’s vision.”

Stack of Wheat (Snow Effect, Overcast Day), 1890/91

It’s not that Monet worked any slower than earlier. But he would move from one canvas to another, as up to seven of them were lined up in the field; he was trying to capture the shifting nuances in color and texture of the morning or late afternoon light. He wrote:” I first of all believed that two canvasses would do, one for grey weather, one for the sun. One day I saw that the light had changed. I asked my step daughter (Blanche Hoschedé) to fetch another canvas, then another, still another. I worked on each one only when I had my effect.”

Stacks of Wheat (End of Day, Autumn), 1890/91

Monet was forty-three when he first rented, then bought, the two-acre farm and house at Giverny, France. Although Monet continued occasional travel to paint new series, his focus shifted later in life to the home, gardens and lily pond of the farm. The cycle of seasons and the dominion of the land became very real for him. The spirit of these humble stacks of wheat, seeming to wait patiently for their gift of food to be harvested, inheres in Monet’s paintings as well.


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