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Artists Claude Monet

Claude Monet

French Painter

Movement: Impressionism

Born: November 14, 1840 - Paris, France

Died: December 5, 1926 - Giverny, France

Quotes

"I am driven more and more frantic by the need to render what I experience. Working so slowly I become desperate, but the further I go the more I see that one must work very hard to succeed in rendering what I am looking for: 'Instantaneity', especially the envelope, the same light that diffuses everywhere and, more than ever, things come easily and at once disgust me."
Claude Monet
"The motif is insignificant for me; what I want to represent is what lies between the motif and me."
Claude Monet
"Once more I have undertaken things which are impossible to do; water with grasses waving in depths...It's wonderful to see but it drives you mad to want to do it. But I am always trying things like that."
Claude Monet
"I tell myself that anyone who says he has finished a canvas is terribly arrogant. Finished means complete, perfect, and I toil away without making any progress, searching, fumbling around, without achieving anything much."
Claude Monet
"Since the appearance of Impressionism, the official salons, which used to be brown, have become blue, green, and red... But peppermint or chocolate, they are still confections."
Claude Monet

"For me, a landscape does not exist in its own right, since its appearance changes at every moment; but the surrounding atmosphere brings it to life - the light and the air which vary continually. For me, it is only the surrounding atmosphere which gives subjects their true value."

Synopsis

Claude Monet was among the leaders of the French Impressionist movement of the 1870s and 1880s. His 1873 painting Impression, Sunrise gave the style its name, and as an inspirational talent and a personality, he was crucial in bringing its adherents together. Inspired in the 1860s by the Realists' interest in painting in the open air, Monet would later bring the technique to one of its most famous pinnacles with his so-called series paintings, in which his observations of the same subject, viewed at various times of the day, were captured in numerous sequences of paintings. Masterful as a colorist and as a painter of light and atmosphere, his later work often achieved a remarkable degree of abstraction, and this has recommended him to subsequent generations of abstract painters.

Key Ideas

Monet's early work is indebted to the Realists' interests in depicting contemporary subject matter, without idealization, and in painting outdoors in order to capture the fleeting qualities of nature.
Inspired in part by Edouard Manet, Monet gradually began to develop a distinctive style of his own in the late 1860s. He departed from the clear depiction of forms and linear perspective, which were prescribed by the established art of the time, and he experimented with loose handling, bold color, and strikingly unconventional compositions. The emphasis in his pictures shifted from figures to the qualities of light and the atmosphere in the scene, and, as he matured, he became ever more attentive to light and color.
In his later years, Monet also became increasingly sensitive to the decorative qualities of color and form. He began to apply paint in smaller strokes, building it up in broad fields of color, and, in the 1880s, he began to explore the possibilities of a decorative paint surface and harmonies and contrasts of color. The effects that he achieved, particularly in the series paintings of the 1890s, represent a remarkable advance towards abstraction and towards a modern painting focused purely on surface effects.
An inspiration and a leader among the Impressionists, he was crucial in attracting Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley, Edouard Manet and Camille Pissarro to work alongside each other in the Parisian suburb of Argenteuil in the 1870s. He was also important in establishing the exhibition society that would showcase the group's work between 1874 and 1886.

Most Important Art

Boulevard des Capucines (1873)
Boulevard des Capucines captures a scene of the hustle and bustle of Parisian life from the studio of Monet's friend, the photographer Felix Nadar. Applying very little detail, Monet uses short, quick brushstrokes to create the "impression" of people in the city alive with movement. Critic Leroy was not pleased with these abstracted crowds, describing them as "black tongue-lickings." Monet painted two views from this location, with this one looking towards the Place de l'Opera. The first Impressionist exhibition was held in Nadar's studio, and perhaps in a show of respect to his supporter, Monet included this piece.
Oil on canvas - Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City
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Biography

Childhood

Born in Paris to a grocer, Claude Oscar Monet moved at the age of five to Le Havre, a seaside town in northern France. The ocean and rugged coastline of the region had a profound affect on him at an early age, and he would often run away from school to go for walks along the cliffs and beaches. As a youth, he received instruction at the College du Havre from a former pupil of the famous Neo-Classical artist Jacques-Louis David. Creative and enterprising from an early age, he drew caricatures in his spare time and sold them for 20 francs apiece. Demonstrating his early aptitude for the art world, he saved 2000 francs from his art sales.

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Early Training

A pivotal experience occurred in 1856 when Monet became friends with Eugene Boudin, a landscape painter famous for his scenes of northern French coastal towns. Boudin encouraged him to paint outdoors, and this plein air technique changed Monet's concept of how art could be created: "It was as if a veil was torn from my eyes; I had understood. I grasped what painting could be."

Despite being rejected for a scholarship, in 1859 Monet moved to Paris to study with help from his family. However, instead of choosing the more customary career path of a Salon painter, by enrolling at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Monet attended the Académie Suisse, where he met fellow artist Camille Pissarro.

Mature Period

Claude Monet Biography

Obliged to serve in the military, in 1861 Monet was sent to Algiers. Like Eugene Delacroix before him, the north African environment stimulated Monet and affected his artistic and personal outlook. Coming home to Le Havre after his service, his "final education of the eye" was provided by the Dutch landscape and marine artist Johan Jongkind. Following this, Monet again left for Paris, attending the studio of Swiss artist Charles Gleyre, which included such students - and future Impressionists - as Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Frederic Bazille and Alfred Sisley.

In 1865, the Paris Salon accepted two of Monet's seascapes for exhibition. However, the artist was feeling confined by working in a studio, preferring his earlier experience of painting in nature, so he moved just outside Paris to the edge of the Fontainebleau forest. Using his future wife, Camille Doncieux, as his sole model, his ambitiously large Women in the Garden (1866-67) was a culmination of the ideas and themes in his earlier work. Monet was hopeful that the work would be included in the Paris Salon, but his style kept him at odds with the jurors and the picture was refused, leaving the artist devastated. The official salon at this time still valued Romanticism. (In 1921, to assuage the 50-year-old insult, Monet made the French government purchase the painting for the enormous sum of 200,000 francs.)

To escape the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, Monet took refuge in London, producing many scenes such as Westminster Bridge (1871). His wife and their new baby boy joined him. He visited London museums and saw the works of John Constable and J.M.W. Turner, whose romantic naturalism clearly influenced his use of light. Most importantly, he met Paul Durand-Ruel, who ran a new modern art gallery on Bond Street. Durand-Ruel became a major supporter of Monet and Pissarro, and later Renoir, Degas, and other French Impressionists.

Claude Monet Photo

Returning to France after the war, Monet settled his family in Argenteuil, a suburb of Paris along the Seine River. Over the next six years he developed his style and documented the changes in the growing town in over 150 canvases. His presence also attracted Parisian friends including Renoir and Manet. While each influenced the other in significant ways, Monet had won Manet over to plein air painting by 1874.

In a continued effort to protest the salon system, Monet and his friends organized their own exhibition in 1873, held in the vacated studio of photographer and caricaturist Felix Nadar. This became known as the first Impressionist exhibition. These artists, including Renoir, Degas, and Pissarro, were the first artists to collectively respond to the changes in their city. The modernization of Paris was evident in the wider boulevards needed to accommodate the expanding fashions of public life and growing traffic of consumerism. Not only was their subject matter new, but the way they portrayed this reality was unique as well. Intuitive feeling and the essence of spontaneity, of the moment, were impressed upon the canvas. It was through the 1873 work Impression, Sunrise that Monet inadvertently gave the movement its name, although that name was actually initially used by writers to criticize these types of works.

While Monet's upbringing was rather middle class, his extravagant tastes led him to live much of his life in varying degrees of poverty and debt. His paintings were not a decent source of income and he often had to borrow money from his friends. After receiving several commissions throughout the 1870s, Monet enjoyed some financial success, but was in dire straits by the end of the decade. When his wife Camille died in 1879, there was a change in Monet's work, focusing more on the flux of experiential time and the mediating effects of atmosphere and personality on subject matter.

The next two decades of Monet's life and work were characterized by constant travel. He visited Norway and Venice, and made several journeys to London and around France. Monet was less concerned with modernity in his works and more with atmosphere and environment. It was at this stage that he hit upon the type of paintings for which he is perhaps best known. His series of grainstacks, painted at different times throughout the day, received critical acclaim from opinion-makers, buyers, and the public when exhibited at Durand-Ruel's gallery in May 1891. He then turned his sights to Rouen Cathedral, making similar studies of the effects of changing mood, light, and atmosphere on its facade at different times of the day. The results were over 40 canvases of brilliant, slightly exaggerated colors that formed a visual record of accumulated perceptions.

Late Years and Death

Claude Monet Portrait

Ultimately, Monet preferred to be alone with nature, creating his paintings rather than participating in theoretical or critical battles within the artistic and cultural scene of Paris. After his 1908 Venetian excursion, he settled for the remainder of his life at his estate in Giverny. The year 1911 saw the death of his second wife, Alice, followed by his son, Jean. Shattered by these deaths, the ragings of the First World War, and even a cataract forming over one of his eyes, Monet essentially ceased to paint. Finally, his friend Georges Clemenceau lifted him out of his mourning by encouraging him to create his water garden series, of which the Water Lilies (1918) is a part.

The property at Giverny was Monet's primary inspiration for the last three decades of his life. He created a Japanese garden for contemplation and relaxation, making a pond filled with water lilies with an arched bridge. He conceived a continuous sequence of waterscapes situated in an oval salon as a world within the world. A new studio with a glass wall facing the garden was built for this purpose, and despite having cataracts now in both eyes, Monet was able to move a portable easel around to different places within the studio to capture the ever-changing light and perspective of his water lilies. Concentrating on the pond itself, his all-over compositions allowed the viewer to feel as if they were within the water surrounded by the foliage. He continued to work on his water paintings right up until the end of his life.

Legacy

Monet's extraordinarily long life and large artistic output befit the enormity of his contemporary popularity. Impressionism, for which he is a pillar, continues to be one of the most reproduced styles of art for popular consumption in the form of calendars, postcards, and posters. Additionally, his paintings command top prices at auctions. Monet's work is in every major museum worldwide and continues to be sought after. While there have been major internationally touring retrospectives of his work, even the presence of one Monet painting can anchor an entire exhibition for the audience. The impact of his experiments with changing mood and light on static surfaces can be seen in most major artistic movements of the early twentieth century.

Influences and Connections

Influences on artist

Artists, Friends, Movements

Influenced by artist

Artists, Friends, Movements

Claude Monet
Interactive chart with Claude Monet's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
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Artists

Eugéne Boudin
Gustave Courbet
Jean-Francois Millet
Edouard Manet
J.M.W. Turner

Friends

Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Jean Frédéric Bazille
Charles Baudelaire
Alfred Sisley
Emile Zola

Movements

Realism
Neo-Classicism
Japonisme
Claude Monet
Claude Monet
Years Worked: 1852 - 1926

Artists

Vincent van Gogh
Paul Cézanne
Edgar Degas
Georges Seurat
Camille Pissarro

Friends

Paul Durand-Ruel
Stéphane Mallarmé
James Whistler
Georges Clemenceau

Movements

Impressionism
Post-Impressionism
Symbolism
Pointillism
Fauvism

Original content written by The Art Story Contributors

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

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Useful Resources on Claude Monet

Special Features
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artist features
Defining Modern Art

Take a look at the big picture of modern art, and Monet's role in it.

The books and articles below constitute a bibliography of the sources used in the writing this page. These also suggest some accessible resources for further research, especially ones that can be found and purchased via the internet.
biography
Monet: Impressions of Light

By Henri Lallemand

Monet or the Triumph of Impressionism

By Daniel Wildenstein

First Impressions: Claude Monet

By Ann Waldron

Claude Monet - 1840-1926: A Feast for the Eyes

By Karin Sagner

Inside His Sketchbooks, Clues to Monet

By Benjamin Genocchio
The New York Times
August 10, 2007

Monet Arrives and Ripens

By Roberta Smith
The New York Times
May 4, 2007

Monet's Water Lilies bloom again

By Angelique Chrisafis
The Guardian
May 3, 2006

in pop culture
Monet: Shadow and Light

1999

Impressionism
Impressionism
Impressionism
A movement in painting that first surfaced in France in the 1860s, it sought new ways to describe effects of light and movement, often using rich colors. The Impressionists were drawn to modern life and often painted the city, but they also captured landscapes and scenes of middle-class leisure-taking in the suburbs.
ArtStory: Impressionism
Realism
Realism
Realism
Realism is an approach to art that stresses the naturalistic representation of things, the look of objects and figures in ordinary life. It emerged as a distinct movement in the mid-nineteenth century, in opposition to the idealistic, sometimes mythical subjects that were then popular, but it can be traced back to sixteenth-century Dutch art and forward into twentieth-century styles such as Social Realism.
ArtStory: Realism
Edouard Manet
Edouard Manet
Edouard Manet
Edouard Manet was a French painter and a prominent figure in the mid-nineteenth-century Realist movement of French art. Manet's paintings are considered among the first works of art in the modern era, due to his rough painting style and absence of idealism in his figures. Manet was a close friend of and major influence on younger artists who founded Impressionism such as Claude Monet, Edgar Degas and Pierre-Auguste Renoir.
ArtStory: Edouard Manet
Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Pierre-Auguste Renoir was one of the leading figures of French Impressionism during the late-nineteenth century. Renoir tended to favor outdoor scenes, gardens bathed in sunlight, and large gatherings of people. Known as a master of light, shadow and color, Renoir was also highly esteemed for his depiction of natural movement on the canvas. In terms of the French Impressionists' lasting popularity and fame, Renoir is perhaps second only to Monet.
ArtStory: Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Alfred Sisley
Alfred Sisley
Alfred Sisley
Alfred Sisley was an English Impressionist landscape painter who spent much of his life working in France. As an enthusiast of plein air painting, Sisley was among the group of artists that included Monet, Renoir and Pissarro who dedicated themselves to capturing the transient effects of sunlight. He was a true Impressionist and committed landscape painter who never deviated from this style or subject into figurative work like many of his contemporaries.
Alfred Sisley
Camille Pissarro
Camille Pissarro
Camille Pissarro
Camille Pissarro was a French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist painter. Known as the "Father of Impressionism," he used his own painterly style to depict urban daily life, landscapes, and rural scenes.
ArtStory: Camille Pissarro
Jacques Louis David
Jacques Louis David
Jacques Louis David
Jacques Louis David was a French neoclassical artist who is best known for his historical and mythological paintings. In 1774, he won the coveted Prix de Rome prize. His most famous paintings include 'The Oath of the Horatii,' 'The Death of Marat' and 'The Coronation of Napoleon.' He was Napoleon's official court painter until the regime dissolved and David exiled himself to Brussels.
Jacques Louis David
Eugéne Boudin
Eugéne Boudin
Eugéne Boudin
Eugéne Boudin was a French marine and landscape painter who worked primarily in the second half of the nineteenth century. His reputation steadily grew throughout his long career, eventually being awarded the Legion of Honor in 1892. His plein air method of working had a significant influence on the young Monet and consequently the Impressionist movement.
Eugéne Boudin
The French Salon
The French Salon
The French Salon
The Salon was a biannual Paris exhibition that, in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, became the most important regular exhibition in Europe. Initially restricted to members of the French Academy, it was later opened up; however, it remained strongly associated with the Academy's conservatism, and this eventually encouraged artists to exhibit outside of its confines.
ArtStory: The French Salon
Eugène Delacroix
Eugène Delacroix
Eugène Delacroix
Eugène Delacroix was a mid-nineteenth-century French painter and pioneer of European Modernist painting. Known primarily as a Romantic, Delacroix's paintings were passionate in their depictions of love, war and human sensuality, earning the artist both praise and controversy in his time. His preoccupation with color-induced optical effects and use of expressive brushstrokes were crucial influences on Impressionism and Pointillism.
Eugène Delacroix
Jean Frédéric Bazille
Jean Frédéric Bazille
Jean Frédéric Bazille
Jean Frédéric Bazille was an Impressionist landscape painter. Coming from a wealthy background, he helped his fellow artists, including Monet, Sisley and Manet with money and materials. His career and life were cut short, dying in battle during the Franco-Prussian War at just 29 years old.
Jean Frédéric Bazille
Romanticism
Romanticism
Romanticism
Romanticism was a nineteenth-century movement that celebrated the powers of emotion and intuition over rational analysis or classical ideals. Romantic artists emphasized awe, beauty, and the sublime in their works, which frequently charted the darker or chaotic sides of human life.
Romanticism
John Constable
John Constable
John Constable
John Constable was an English Romantic painter. He is chiefly known for his landscape paintings of Dedham Vale, the area surrounding his English home. He was not elected to the Royal Academy until he was 52 years old. His work remained largely unnoticed in England until later into his career, a fact which was due in part to his seemingly old-fashion artistic style.
John Constable
J.M.W. Turner
J.M.W. Turner
J.M.W. Turner
J.M.W. Turner (Joseph Mallord William Turner) was a mid-nineteenth-century British painter and watercolorist. Considered a key forerunner to the French Impressionists and the American Hudson River School of painters, Turner is known in history as "the painter of light." His trademark land- and sea-scapes are categorized as Romantic and Naturalist, given the artist's expressive and poetic application of natural light. Turner was among the last great pre-modern painters.
J.M.W. Turner
Felix Nadar
Felix Nadar
Felix Nadar
Félix Nadar was the popular moniker of Gaspard-Félix Tournachon, nineteenth-century French artist, photographer, balloonist and journalist. Nadar was a champion of the Impressionists, best known for his portrait photographs of the significant personalities of Parisian avant-garde.
Felix Nadar
Gustave Courbet
Gustave Courbet
Gustave Courbet
Gustave Courbet was a French painter and chief figure in the Realist movement of the mid-nineteenth century. His paintings often contained an emotional bleakness, and were praised for their precision and use of light. Along with Delacroix, Courbet was a key influence on the Impressionists.
ArtStory: Gustave Courbet
Jean-Francois Millet
Jean-Francois Millet
Jean-Francois Millet
Jean-Francois Millet was a Realist painter in nineteenth-century France, and a founder of the Barbizon School. He is especially known for his depictions rural life and peasant labor.
Jean-Francois Millet
Charles Baudelaire
Charles Baudelaire
Charles Baudelaire
Charles Pierre Baudelaire was a French poet and art critic during the mid-nineteenth century. His poetry depicted the harsh realities of urban poverty in nineteenth-century Paris, and often focused on the flanuer (one who wanders the city to experience it). The Baudelarian idea of the flaneur is a lasting legacy of the modern era.
Charles Baudelaire
Emile Zola
Emile Zola
Emile Zola
Emile Zola was a nineteenth-century French novelist, playwright, essayist and political activist. He was also the self-proclaimed leader of literary French Naturalism. As one of the leading cultural figures in France, Zola was close with the likes of Manet and Cézanne, and was the favorite writer of Vincent van Gogh.
Emile Zola
Neo-Classicism
Neo-Classicism
Neo-Classicism
Neo-Classicism encompasses several distinct movements in the arts and architecture during the mid-1700s to the late 1800s that drew specifically on ancient Western cultures for inspiration. Looking back to the arts of Greece and Rome for ideal models and forms, both human and structural, Neo-Classicism was a category for literature and music as well as the visual arts. Jacques-Louis David and Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres were the most iconic French Neo-Classic painters.
Neo-Classicism
Japonisme
Japonisme
Japonisme
Japonisme describes the influence of Japanese art, especially woodblock prints, on French artists in the second half of the nineteenth century. Many Post-Impressionists were influenced by the flat blocks of color, the emphasis on design, and the simple, everyday subject matter.
Japonisme
Vincent van Gogh
Vincent van Gogh
Vincent van Gogh
Vincent van Gogh was a Dutch painter, commonly associated with the Post-Impressionist period. As one of the most prolific and experimental artists of his time, van Gogh was a spontaneous painter and a master of color and perspective. Troubled by personal demons all his life, many historians speculate that van Gogh suffered from a Bipolar disorder.
ArtStory: Vincent van Gogh
Paul Cézanne
Paul Cézanne
Paul Cézanne
Paul Cézanne was an influential French Post-Impressionist painter whose depictions of the natural world, based on internal geometric planes, paved the way for Cubism and later modern art movements.
ArtStory: Paul Cézanne
Edgar Degas
Edgar Degas
Edgar Degas
Edgar Degas was a French Impressionist painter, printmaker and sculptor with an extraordinarily long career from the mid-nineteenth century until after WWI. As one of the original group of Impressionists, although he preferred to be called a Realist, he traveled widely and employed the use of photography in his creative process. He is most renowned for his painting and drawings of ballet dancers in rehearsal and performances in the theatre.
ArtStory: Edgar Degas
Georges Seurat
Georges Seurat
Georges Seurat
Georges-Pierre Seurat was a French painter who gave rise to the Post- and Neo-Impressionist artistic styles of the late nineteenth century. Seurat's greatest contribution to modern art was his development of Pointillism, a style of painting in which small dots of paint were applied to create a cohesive image. Combining the science of optics with painterly emotion, Pointillism evoked a visual harmony never before seen in modern art.
ArtStory: Georges Seurat
Paul Durand-Ruel
Paul Durand-Ruel
Paul Durand-Ruel
Paul Durand-Ruel was a French art dealer who became the first champion of the Impressionists. His gallery in Bond St showed Monet, Renoir and others to the art world of London, and then further afield in the United States. He was known to support his artists through solo exhibitions and stipends.
Paul Durand-Ruel
Stéphane Mallarmé
Stéphane Mallarmé
Stéphane Mallarmé
Stéphane Mallarmé was a French Symbolist poet and critic in the late 1800s. Densely written, his poetry played with both the meaning and sound of words, making it difficult to translate. His work was greatly influential on the Dada and Surrealist movements.
Stéphane Mallarmé
James Whistler
James Whistler
James Whistler
James Whistler was a nineteenth-century American expatriate artist. Educated in France and later based in London, Whistler was a famous proponent of art-for-art's-sake, and an esteemed practictioner of tonal harmony in his canvases, often characterized by his masterful use of blacks and greys, as seen in his most famous work, Whistler's Mother (1871). Whistler was also known as an American Impressionist, and in 1874 he famously turned down an invitation from Degas to exhibit his work with the French Impressionists.
James Whistler
Georges Clemenceau
Georges Clemenceau
Georges Clemenceau
Georges Clemenceau was a French statesman and journalist who served as Prime Minister both before and after WWI. Known as 'le Tigre', he was instrumental in negotiating the Treaty of Versailles. As a journalist, he was a major supporter of Emile Zola, publishing 'J'Accuse', during the Dreyfus Affair in 1898.
Georges Clemenceau
Post-Impressionism
Post-Impressionism
Post-Impressionism
Post-Impressionism refers to a number of styles that emerged in reaction to Impressionism in the 1880s. The movement encompassed Symbolism and Neo-Impressionism before ceding to Fauvism around 1905. Its artists turned away from effects of light and atmosphere to explore new avenues such as color theory and personal feeling, often using colors and forms in intense and expressive ways.
ArtStory: Post-Impressionism
Symbolism
Symbolism
Symbolism
Symbolism is an artistic and literary movement that first emerged in France in the 1880s. In the visual arts it is often considered part of Post-Impressionism. It is characterized by an emphasis on the mystical, romantic and expressive, and often by the use of symbolic figures.
ArtStory: Symbolism
Pointillism
Pointillism
Pointillism
Pointillism is a mode of art-making, first developed in 1880s France, in which all of the paint is applied to the surface as tiny points or daubs of color. Based on the laws of color theory, pointillism relies on the viewer's eye to mix the disparate dots into the lines, shapes, shadings, and color ranges of the full scene.
Pointillism
Fauvism
Fauvism
Fauvism
Fauvism was an early twentieth-century art movement founded by Henri Matisse and André Derain. Labeled as "wild beasts", Fauve artists favored vibrant colors and winding gestural strokes across the canvas.
ArtStory: Fauvism