Claude Monet 1840-1926
The Grainstack: 1890-1891
Claude Monet was born in Paris, France. Claude Monet was raised in Le Havre. Monet began an early career as a caricature artist at age 15. In 1858, the Monet met landscape painter Eugène Boudin. He became his mentor and introduced Monet to outdoor painting. Initially Monet was reluctant to leave his studio. Ironically, scenes ‘en plein air’ (outdoors) became the basis for his life’s art work.
Monet revisited the bucolic subject of his earlier painting, “Haystacks at Chailliy” when he began his “Grainstack” series. He set up a multiple easels next to one another and worked on them at the same time.
Monet was living in the country in Giverny in 1890 created some of his best paintings of the 19th century. Monet painted several series of landscapes and seascapes in what he called artistic campaigns to document the beautiful French countryside. Monet spent a lot of time outdoors in order to paint in the fields that surrounded his house.
“Grainstack” would have been a familiar landscape, he would have seen right outside his door. During the 1890s, Monet eventually bought the house he was living in, built a greenhouse and a studio. In the 1880s and 1890s through to the end of his life in 1926, Monet produced "series" paintings.
In a series, one mundane subject was painted in different seasonal light and weather conditions. His first series exhibited as such was of Haystacks, painted from different perspectives and at different times of day. The paintings were exhibited at the Galerie Durand-Ruel in 1891.
Grain stacks were 20 foot high man-made piles of wheat. It took a year to break them down, which was convenient for the artist Monet. He painted 25 canvases of the same stack - some are one and some are two grain stacks -. The only tangible difference between the canvases is the light, weather, time of day, and atmosphere.
Grainstacks were subjects on the country landscape that symbolized fertility and prosperity. Monet rendered the light perfectly and even the air surrounding the stack, each distinctive in its lightscape and atmosphere. His earlier landscapes had included haystacks in a nominal fashion. Monet also produced five paintings featuring haystacks as the primary subject during the 1888 harvest. This series is one of Monet's earliest that relied on repetition to illustrate nuances in viewpoint and variation in terms of times of day, seasons, and types of weather. This serial motif theme would continue for the duration of Monet’s artistic career.
The mundane subject (the Grainstack) is secondary to the vibrant colors and light effects. Monet has the uncanny ability to recreate air and light with paint. Monet captured the haziness in the country air that surrounds the stack. Claude Monet's love of the French countryside, respect for nature and his style that made him famous are apparent in this series.
Grainstack is in the Art Institute of Chicago.