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CLAUDE MONET

SEACOAST AT TROUVILLE, 1881

About the Artwork

A single tree, deformed by the constant buffeting of onshore winds, is the central motif of this painting by Monet. Because the horizon line is effaced in a haze of creamy blue strokes, there is no sense of recession into the distance. Such an abstract field behind the tree deprives it of volume, so that it reads as a flat pattern on the surface. This pattern is so dominant that its outline determines the shapes of other forms in the painting. Not only do the low blue bushes that extend from one edge of the canvas to the other echo the general form of the tree’s foliage, but the very ground answers the bending motion in low hillocks parallel or related to the tree’s angle. Although the tree’s form is dominant and determines so many other shapes in the painting, the tree in itself is almost ephemeral, for it is barely rooted in the soil. The painting is thus an exercise in pattern making rather than a naturalistic description of a place.

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