Art History/ Art Piece of the Day: Claude Monet’s. ” Houses on the Achterzaan”
Today’s Met Classic is: “Houses on the Achterzaan”, 1871 by Claude Monet (French, 1840-1926). Oil on canvas. Part of the Robert Lehman Collection in 1975, and now hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Description: This light-filled, en plein air scene is one of twenty-four landscapes that Monet painted during his sojourn in the Netherlands in 1871. Painted near the village of Zaandam, the Achterzaan river occupies the foreground of the painting while windmills and industrial buildings can be seen in the distant background. The water reflects the multi-colored houses and willow trees that line the river bank as well as a white sail boat that floats along the water. A woman dressed in a white diaphanous gown stands beneath a willow tree on the left, grazing by the water.
Employing a distinctly blonde color palette reminiscent of that used by landscape painter Corot, Monet renders this scene with attention to atmospheric detail and palpable light. This painting also evokes a sense of leisure and pastoral beauty typical of Dutch seventeenth century paintings that Monet would have seen during his stay in Holland. The artist’s color palette, portrayal of leisurely pursuits, and increasing attention to the surface of the canvas—all practices that Monet explored during his stay in Holland—were significant and influential in the development of his increasingly modern approach to painting.
Monet postdated this work, marking the canvas in his studio in the year after it was painted. The fact that Monet held on to the canvas for many years after he completed it contributes to the pristine condition of the unlined, unvarnished painting.