Oil on canvas, 100.05 x 65.9 cm (39 3/8 x 25 15/16 in.)
Toward the middle of the 1880s, a number of artists became disaffected with impressionism. Monet began to explore a new kind of painting, serial imagery. The series paintings were a break from impressionism in two critical respects: the works, based on campaigns in front of the motif, were usually extensively reworked in the studio and lacked the spontaneity integral to impressionism, and the motif itself was secondary to effects of light and weather.
The new qualities of Monet’s series paintings were given concentrated expression in the Rouen Cathedrals, in which the stone facade fills the canvases. Monet showed twenty of the thirty extant Cathedrals, among them this work, as a group in an 1895 exhibition. Individual paintings, named according to the view and weather conditions depicted, are chiefly distinguished by color, which assumes the principal role in the series. The cumulative impression reported by visitors extended beyond the impact of individual works. The rich surfaces of the paintings seem to imitate the cathedral’s fabric of the carved stone. Individually the paintings depict a religious edifice, but collectively the series becomes a denial of the solidity of Rouen Cathedral as an entity, and gives precedence to artistic concerns of light, color and mood.
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