“Fisherman’s Cottage on the Cliffs at Varengeville,” painted in 1882, by Claude Monet, is a stunning painting of well . . . a fisherman’s cottage on a cliff in Normandy, France. Cottages were originally built in the Napoleonic Era as posts to watch the coastal traffic. However, in Monet’s lifetime, fishermen used them to store their nets. Monet also “had a key to one in which he used to keep easels and materials for his paintings” (Magee). Monet was able to make something ordinary and practical into a beautiful work of art with his observation of sunlight and use of color. He used an impressionist technique called en plein air in which he observed: “the optical effects of natural sunlight and how the colors and atmosphere of the landscape changes with it” (“Fisherman’s”). You can almost feel the bright sun beating down on the cottage. The warm oranges used in the cottage and in the highlights of the bushes stand out against the blues of the sea and sky. With clever usage of the complementary colors blue and orange, Monet makes the cottage stand out from the background. In addition to the warmth, one can also feel the coolness of the blue and purple shadows of the cottage and the refreshing quality of the bright turquoise water. Monet often ventured into Normandy in the early 1880’s. These trips are now seen as a pivotal time in Monet’s life and subsequently, his works. Three years, earlier in 1879, his wife and muse Camille Doncieux passed away from cancer, marking the start of Monet’s depression. His paintings of Varengeville, made in 1882, just before he moved from the city his wife died in, show Monet’s coming to terms with his grief, a “release, as Monet began to create brighter, more vivid, more joyous, landscapes. This is sometimes seen in relation to his coming to terms with his bereavement.” (Monet ‘Path’). Taking into account the context of “Fisherman’s Cottage on the Cliffs at Varengeville,” the overwhelming joy that shines through the painting is even more striking and hopeful, as it represents a point in Monet’s life where he was on the brink of finding happiness.
1. Now it’s time to create your very own seascape with a warmth in the foreground. First, apply adhesive tape for the border and sketch out the landscape. Try to make the composition interesting by looking at the shapes you are creating.
2. Paint the sky with quick, light strokes. Use a pale baby blue for the sky so that it will contrast the dark blue of the ocean. Paint a few clouds with white paint being so to let the blue sky show through.
3. To paint the ocean, start in the middle with a light blue and work your way up the horizon creating a textured ombre to a dark blue. Starting in the middle, as opposed to the bottom of the ocean, will allow you to get the right colors to form as you paint. Then use blues, greens, and whites to paint the remaining bottom strip of the ocean. Again, gradually work your way up to the darker color in the middle. By starting with the light colors and then adding dark afterward, you will get a smoother blend. The color also creates perspective. As you blend in the darker colors keep some texture to make your paint look more like the ocean. Do the same thing with highlights.
4. Now use oranges, reds, purples, and blues to paint the buildings. Similar to how we did the ocean, start with the light beige colors and work your way up to the purple and blues. Use small strokes to create an impressionistic feel to your buildings. Avoid using black paint, as this will take away from the colors. Instead, add small amounts of purple and blue your existing shades of orange and red to form the darkest shadow in the doorways and windows.
5. For me, the bushes were the most challenging, but once I got the hang of it, I loved painting them. The key is to take your time and work your way across the painting bush by bush. Start out with a layer of light green, then paint the dark shadows of the leaves with a mixture of dark green, purple, and blue (don’t add black to the dark green). Dab light green above the shadows. To give your bushes the same warm and realistic quality as Monet’s, add a thin layer or light pink highlights to the bushes (I use thinner paint, so that the green shows through the pink). Then add even lighter highlights on top of that. Peel off the adhesive tape, and you’re done!
I would love to see your creations! Send them to me @emcardsandcreations on Instagram or [email protected] if you don’t have Instagram.
“Fisherman’s Cottage At Varengeville Painting by Claude Oscar Monet Reproduction: 1st Art Gallery.”1st Art Gallery, www.1st-art-gallery.com/Claude-Oscar-Monet/Fishermans-Cottage-At-Varengeville.htm.
Magee, Graham. “Claude Monet: Then and Now (Summertime on the Normandy Coast).” Gladwell & Patterson, 28 July 2015, www.gladwellpatterson.com/claude-monet-then-and-now/.
“Monet and Camille.” Monet and Camille : A Relationship Biography, www.intermonet.com/exhibit/bremen/biography.htm.
“Monet, ‘Path with Firs at Varengeville’, 1882 By Claude Monet (French, 1840-1926).” Gallery France Online, www.galleryfrance.com/blog/claude-monet.