This work was painted from a hotel window at Le Havre in 1873 (Monet later dated it incorrectly to 1872). It was one of the nine works that he showed at the First Impressionist Exhibition of 1874. Of all those displayed there, this is probably the most famous picture, not so much because of any crucial status within Monet’s oeuvre, but rather for the criticism it attracted from the reviewers, which gave rise to the name of the movement. On 25 April, ten days after the exhibition had opened, an article appeared in the satirical journal Le Charivari in which the critic Louis Leroy described a fictitious conversation between two visitors. One of them was a landscape painter who, while looking at this work, exclaimed: ‘Impressionism, I knew it; after all I’m impressed so it must be an impression. What freedom! What ease of workmanship! Wallpaper in its embryonic state is more finished than this seascape!’ The article was entitled ‘The Exhibition of the Impressionists’, and the label stuck thereafter, as well as being used by such other critics of the exhibition as Castagnary.
Despite its notoriety the painting is in some ways untypical of Monet’s own work of this period and of Impressionism more generally. It shows little of the Impressionist treatment of light and color. The colors are very restrained and the paint is applied not in discrete brushstrokes of contrasting colours but in very thin washes. In some places the canvas is even visible and the only use of impasto is in the depiction of the reflected sunlight on the water. The painting is strongly atmospheric rather than analytical and has a spirit somewhat akin to Turner’s works. Nevertheless, it does illustrate particularly well one of the features of Impressionist painting that was thought so revolutionary. The technique is very ‘sketchy’ and would have been seen as a preliminary study for a painting rather than a finished work suitable for exhibition. (Monet himself saw the work as unfinished, and it was for that reason that he adopted the title ‘Impression’ to distinguish it from such works as his other view of Le Havre in the same exhibition, though this too lacks the finish then expected.) In this work Monet stripped away the details to a bare minimum: the dockyards in the background are merely suggested by a few brushstrokes as are the boats in the foreground. The whole represents the artist’s swift attempt to capture a fleeting moment. The highly visible, near abstract technique, compels almost more attention than the subjectmatter itself, a notion then wholly alien to viewers.
Two years after completing the painting, Monet exhibited Impression, Sunrise in the first Exhibition of the Impressionists, an independent show hosted by Paris’ avant-garde artists. Set in the studio of Nadar, a French photographer, the exhibition featured over 200 pieces by the Société Anonyme Coopérative des Artistes Peintres, Sculpteurs, Graveurs, a band of artists including Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas, Camille Pissarro, and others. While these painters exhibited equally controversial work, critics were particularly bemused by Monet’s painting—especially its title.
In 1861, Monet was drafted to Algeria for military service. During his seven years in North Africa, he developed a taste for color and light. When he returned to France, he continued to incorporate a sun-soaked palette into his paintings, which he rendered in quick, expressive brushstrokes in order to capture fleeting “impressions” of his surroundings.
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).
Poppy Field (Argenteuil) (1873) Musee d’Orsay, Paris.
Masterpiece of plein-air painting.
At the time, MonetвЂ™s approach to landscapes was shocking; even offensive to those who would not believe he would leave artworks looking unfinished. The Neoclassical movement was de rigueur, and it was highly unusual for a work to stray away from using the traditional rules of composition.
Monet has since established his place as one of the true masters of Impressionist art. Impression, Sunrise is lauded as one of the finest examples of Impressionism, exemplifying the movement as a whole through the dreamy, hazy landscape.
Impression, Sunrise (French: Impression, soleil levant) is a painting by Claude Monet first shown at what would become known as the “Exhibition of the Impressionists” in Paris in April, 1874. The painting is credited with inspiring the name of the Impressionist movement.
Although it may seem that the Sun is the brightest spot on the canvas, it is in fact, when measured with a photometer, the same brightness (or luminance) as the sky.  Dr. Margaret Livingstone, a professor of neurobiology at Harvard University, said “If you make a black and white copy of Impression: Sunrise, the Sun disappears [almost] entirely.”