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Waterloo Bridge by Claude Monet Essay

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Updated: Feb 19th, 2019

The variety of paintings in the Denver Art Museum is impressive indeed. The division of collections into Textile Art, Asian Art, Pre-Columbian Art, Spanish Colonial etc provides the visitor with an opportunity to choose one exhibition in accordance with personal interests and demands.

The collection that attracts my attention is the European & American Art; my choice is almost obvious because this collection introduces the wonderful world of art, offered by Claude Monet. This French impressionist created numerous paintings using his own style and format.

His Waterloo Bridge, created in 1903, was the result of his trips around the European cities between 1899 and 1903. The peculiar feature of this painting is not the famous bridge itself but light and colors, which evaluate the chosen period of a day. In Waterloo Bridge, Claude Monet did not want to represent the bridge as he saw it but to underline the importance of the air, colors, and nature around that bridge that made the whole picture complete, impressive, and memorable.

It is very difficult to describe Monet’s Waterloo Bridge in a few words because the impressions are really great. Though the title of the painting is Waterloo Bridge, the bridge itself does not consider to be its center. Monet made a wonderful attempt to attract people’s attention not to the building but to the medium that completed the image.

At the first glance, it is possible to see that Monet wanted to impress one moment, one breath, and one movement that depicted a true nature of London. Working smoke stacks, moving barges, a long busy bridge, and constant smog – all this is regarded to be an integral part of London, that very part that catches its visitors’ eye from the very beginning.

The point is that even if this painting were not titled, it would be possible to guess what place and what city were represented on it. On my opinion, the style, chosen by the painter, is closer to the realistic one because it is characterized by the attempts to interpret the world as it is with its style, people, and life. In spite of the fact that Monet’s skill to use color and light in a very unusual way, the realism may be perfectly observed on this painting.

In a thorough analysis of Monet’s Waterloo Bridge, such visual elements like line, color, and light need to be mentioned at first. Monet was one of those impressionists, who tried to take each detail into consideration and use the variety of visual elements in order to impress a person and share personal impressions and mood.

For example, lines help to suggest necessary direction and balance. By their nature, lines may be of different types, and the choice of Monet is justified. He made use of numerous diagonal lines at the top in order to underline that the desirable balance was lost, certain destruction seized the city, and motion could be hardly stopped.

All this is above the ground. People change their minds constantly, hurry up to do as many things as possible, and enjoy the chosen way of life. Their bustle is noticeable in those diagonal lines. However, he also used a considerable number of horizontal lines (where the river is described) proved that calm and stability are also obligatory for people to continue the chosen style of life and not to lose their ways.

The idea that Monet liked to use a limited palette is proved in his Waterloo Bridge. He shows how such colors like cobalt blue, cadmium yellow, and emerald green are perfectly combined in one painting. Though many people may say that the only color that is observed in Waterloo Bridge is green, their answer is wrong.

The pigments of blue and yellow are also noticed, and in spite of the fact that combination of these colors leads to green, it is mistakenly think that green is the only color in Waterloo Bridge. I think that Monet wanted to teach his viewers that the first gaze may be rather deceptive, and only a true connoisseur of art is able to find out how colorful his Waterloo Bridge actually is.

The use of light is one more peculiar feature of the painting under consideration. Monet was one of fewer painters, who were able to depict light by means of painting one and the same motif in absolutely different conditions. In this painting, the creator paid enough attention to depict the light quality in the water. The viewer cannot see the sun itself; however, its reflection and warm may be observed in the water, and its bright light on quite a gloomy background shows how significant brightness may be for London.

Such powerful design principles like balance and unity make up the painting to its full extent. With the help of the principle of unity, Monet demonstrates how different parts of the image may work together as a team.

The work of smoke stacks makes it difficult to see clearly the world; however, working barges and a crowded bridge prove that these stacks are also integral elements of this city and that life cannot be stopped. The balance of this work is mixed; diverse lines and rapid transition of colors serve as strong means to prove that Monet saw London as the city of contrast, where people change their minds and occupations as frequent as possible and cannot prefer one stable position.

Talking about the functions of this concrete piece of art, it is necessary to consider two levels, personal and physical. The physical function of Waterloo Bridge is about the actions and style that are inherent to London’s citizens. Smoke stacks are working and provide people with the necessary warm and energy; cars are moving to transport people; and barges are floating to perform their everyday duties.

The personal function of this work is connected to human emotions and Monet’s intentions. With the help of this function, the painter demonstrated that smog and working technologies did not prevent people of their constant affairs and duties. They should not be dependant on weather and smog, and this is the main lesson, people can learn from this painting.

Claude Monet was one of the most outstanding painters at the beginning of the 1900s. His works and attitude to life make me always be amazed and captured. Looking at his Waterloo Bridge, I cannot help but wonder what made Monet choose such gloomy colors and focus his attention on air and smog rather than on the bridge itself.

Within a couple of minutes, I come to the conclusion that this work is really magnificent and realistic because Monet offered to observe London not as a city of huge and historical buildings but as a city of contrasts and colors. Different lines and objects represent the variety that is inherent to the city.

When people focus on one concrete subject, they have to evaluate its worth in respect to all other objects around. The true essence of the bridge is not about its construction and material; Waterloo Bridge’s essence lies deeper, when such points like air, water, sun’s reflections in the water, smog, and constant traffic are considered simultaneously.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "Waterloo Bridge by Claude Monet." February 19, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/waterloo-bridge-by-claude-monet/.


IvyPanda. (2019) 'Waterloo Bridge by Claude Monet'. 19 February.

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