impression sunrise theme
Impression, Sunrise is a slight sketch, almost certainly completed on the spot in a single sitting, depicting the harbour at Le Havre as the sun rises over the cranes, derricks and masts of the anchored ships. It was actually painted in one sitting by Monet, standing at a window overlooking the harbour at sunrise. The only evidence of life is the lazy action of the oarsman in the most sharply defined part of the composition. The painting gives a suggestion of the early morning mist, at that time clogged with the industrial smoke of the city, and has a strong relationship to the earlier views of mist and fog done by the artist in London in 1870. Influenced by both Eugene Boudin (1824-98) and Johan Barthold Jongkind (1819-1891), Monet had only recently returned from London, and his abiding impression of the city, recalled later, was of its fog. While there, he had seen the work of J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851), who is generally thought to have been an important influence on both him and the other Impressionists, and he may also have seen some of the early Nocturnes by his contemporary James Whistler (1834-1903).
The Beach at Trouville (1870) Wadsworth Atheneum, CT.
Rapid oil painting showing complete mastery of outdoor work.
Publications, 1976. Print.
Over time, Monet’s painting techniques evolved and matured from the type he implemented in Impression, Sunrise to that seen in his later, larger paintings such as his water lilies. One area in which he developed his technique was pigment mixture. While Impression, Sunrise displays several different tones of color, Monet’s later works exhibit a wider variety of color juxtaposed against one another. Monet would come to use layer upon layer of paint in his future paintings. He applied many layers to succeed in creating the perfect combination of pigment, but also to cover undesired portions when he changed his mind in the process of completing a painting, which happened often. Up to fifteen layers of paint have been counted in a cross-section by scientists who have analyzed Monet’s paintings. Another future technique not seen in Impression, Sunrise that Monet employed was corrugation. This technique is seen in several of his water lily paintings. The effect of corrugation was produced by layering thick, but open brushstrokes of paint onto the canvas which then served as the textural basis for the thin strokes of color placed on top. Monet applied these thin strokes perpendicularly to the under-layer so as to lightly brush the ridges of the texture. If Monet acquired layers of paint that were too heavy, he often used a technique called scraping down to remove the unwanted or excess paint. A final technique Monet later utilized in his water lily paintings was named leaching. In this process, Monet would squeeze the paint out of the tubes onto paper blotters to drain the oil from the paints. This technique was commonly used when he desired a softer and more matte-like appearance.
“‘Ah! This is it, this is it!: he cried in front of n. 98. ‘This one is Papa Vincent’s favorite! What is this a painting of? Look in the catalogue.’ ‘Impression, Sunrise.’ ‘Impression– I knew it. I was just saying to myself, if I’m impressed, there must be an impression in there… And what freedom, what ease in the brushwork! Wallpaper in its embryonic state is more finished than this seascape!”  
Initially used to describe and deprecate a movement, the term Impressionism “was immediately taken up by all parties” to describe the style,  and Monet’s Impression, Sunrise considered to encapsulate the start of the movement and its name.
A critic who attended the exhibition, M. Louis Leroy, wrote a now famous article in Le Charivari in which he used the term “Impressionist” based on the title of this painting. Despite the fact that Leroy had used the word derisively, the group decided to adopt it and painters such as Renoir and Degas were happy to be called Impressionists
From the 15th April to 15th May 1874 Monet exhibited his work together with Camille Pissarro, Alfred Sisley, Édouard Manet, Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, and some other thirty artists. They organized their exhibition on their own as they were usually rejected at the Paris Salon. Most visitors were disgusted and even outraged over such a graffiti. Monet’s Impression, Sunrise enjoyed the most attention and some visitors even claimed that they were absolutely unable to recognize what was shown at all.
One of Monet’s most famous images, Impression, Sunrise was actually the painting that gave rise to the term Impressionism. Going through and editing the catalogue for an exhibition, Renoir’s brother, Edmond, pointed out to Monet the monotony of his titles: View of a Village, with variations. Monet supposedly replied, “Why don’t you just call them ‘impression?” In the following years, the word was to be widely used by the artists and critics alike.
Indeed, the painting itself demonstrates many of the principles of Impressionism in its composition. Monet himself remarked that it can’t really pass for a view of Le Havre’s harbor: the painting doesn’t really reveal anything. Major landmarks of the harbor are obscured by the early morning mist; the scarlet disc of the sun draws the attention more than anything else, and it overshadows any prominence other objects would have. The clear gray light illuminates the entire canvas, and accounts for the mood of the fishing scene. Monet is clearly more interested in the color of the sky than the topography of the harbor. The painting relies on the artist’s perception, not on realistic appearance. It is, quintessentially, an impression.