The Church at Varengeville, Setting Sun.

The Church at Varengeville, Setting Sun.

Varengeville, Normandy, 1882

Oil on canvas

“The view is across a hidden gorge to the isolated cliff-top church at Varengeville.  Monet painted various subjects along the Normandy coast in the summer of 1882.” (Herbert, 1994).

Fragments of colour build up a vibrant landscape. Monet has interpreted the colours, weather and time of day through his own emotional lens. The pointillistic, fragmented construction has inspired me to use colourful pointillistic synthesis textures to mimic the use of colour, weather and atmosphere. One of the ideas for using synthesis, is to mimic the impressionistic painting style, that is, an expressive distortion of the reality the artist is seeing. A key feature of the painting is a lateral flow of form, a flow created by the wind; an effect known as eolian shaping, the trees are being blown, rustling as wind passes through, so is the foliage bellow and the long grass in the distance has a clear direction to it. The static stone church in the background could be chiming, polyrhythmic pitches embedded amongst the sea birds and the whispering psithurisms of the wind. The landscape is calm, fresh and colourful, the sun is setting, the sea in the distance gently ebbs and flows and we hear the wind gently altering the landscape absent of human presence, only the church that sits faded in the background.

Between 1867 and 1887 Monet travelled across the Normandy coast painting a variety of subjects and scenes. “Monet was determined to make the views his own, and he stared closely at nature. He developed a technique in which brushwork, colour, and composition could register his responses to nature, apparently instinctual responses that marked out his originality” (Herbert, 1994). While at Varengeville in the summer of 1882, Monet produced four canvases of the same view over the duration of a day, reflecting the way light changed as the suns position in the sky changed (The Barber Institute of Fine Arts, 2022). By 1882, Monet had largely abandoned the Impressionist practice of finishing a painting from nature; here the final touches were added in his studio. (ArtUK, 2022). The spot, Varengville that Monet paints is a popular site for impressionistic artists to paint. Artists such as Jacques-Emile Blanche and Jen Frnacis Auburtin: “Although the artist Auburtin was interested in the effects of light and chose a framing markedly identical to that of Monet, his design and colours are much more synthetic” (Musée des Impressionnismes Giverny, 2022).

Monet was known through the 1880s for his landscape paintings; “During the 1880s, Monet travelled through France painting a variety of landscapes. He gradually became better known and for the last 30 years of his life he was regarded as the greatest of the Impressionists (BBC, 2014). Monet’s decision to exhibit comparatively small paintings, bright in colour and often sketchily executed, was a calculated intervention into contemporary debates on painting, and a statement that pictures like these could be legitimately considered finished works. During Monet’s time in France his style underwent transition, the crisply painted forms in his work from the late 1860s are barley comparable to the expressive, loosely painted landscapes and nature forms developed by Monet from the 1880s then into the 20th century (House, 1986). Where previously Monet focussed on the material facture of a subject, evolution towards an integrated harmony between substance and feeling became a focal point in Monet’s work. (House, 1986).

My technical approach to composing the piece uses additive synthesis techniques to construct sinusoidal textures which ebb and flow in polyphony and polyrhythm thereby both mimicking the ebb and flow of wind and the polyphony of a church’s bells. The Church at Varengeville is an emotional, impressionistic response to a landscape so I wanted to try and replicate those emotions in the way I use pitches. The closing section of the piece is detuned to add an uneasy edge, for I feel abstraction and impressionism presents a disconnect from reality. The wind passing through foliage is a key observation within the painting, so I wanted to directly mimic this by using a broadband, wind-like textures with granular filtering applied.

Hear here an excerpt from my composition:

References

Artuk. (2022). The Church at Varengeville. [Online] Available at:
https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/the-church-at-varengeville-33127


The Barber Institute of Fine Arts. (2022). The Church at Varengeville.[Online] Available at:
https://barber.org.uk/claude-monet-1840-1926/.

BBC. (2014). Claude Monet (1840-1926). [Online] Available at:
bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/monet_claude.shtml#:~:text=During%20the%201880s%2C%20Mo
net%20travelled,the%20greatest%20of%20the%20Impressionists


Herbert, R. (1994). Monet on the Normandy Coast Tourism and painting, 1867-1886. Yale University
Press.


House, J. (1986). Monet, Nature into Art. Yale University Press.


Musée des Impressionnismes Giverny. (2022). Monet-Auburtin: The Church at Varengeville-sur-Mer.
[Online] Available at: https://artsandculture.google.com/story/monet-auburtin-the-church-atvarengeville-sur-mer-museum-of-impressionism-giverny/-AVhktuQWuw2Jw?hl=en

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