Travel is inspirational in so many ways. But, when you’re an artist, it could be transferred into a beautiful piece of art, too. So many great poems and stories were written about travel. So many beautiful paintings were inspired by it, as well.
I’ve chosen here a few paintings, a famous Impressionist Claude Monet made during some of his travels. Some of them really made beautiful postcards.
French painter Claude Monet travelled a lot around Europe. He was one of the first painters that started painting outside of his studio. So, of course, he made many paintings showing the places he visited. It’s beautiful how he captured the spirit of each place. Its weather, colours and light. In my opinion, he made some of the perfect first postcards.
Saint-Lazare Station in Paris
The steam is coming out of the train that’s just arriving at a train station in Paris. Could there be a better start of learning about the world of 19th-century travel? It was the main form of transport back then. And a symbol of modern life. Once it became global and accessible, it gave the initial boost to the travel in the 19th century.
The poetry of the nineteenth century, it has to be said, is steam. Once it was only true poets who, borne by the wings of the imagination, reached unknown lands; nowadays, carried on the flaming pinions of steam power, everyone is a poet.
Jules Janin, 1847
Whenever coming to Paris, Monet would first arrived to the Saint-Lazare train station. He made many studies and paintings of it, but this one from the 1877 is one of my favourite.
Tuileries Garden & Louvre Museum
The most popular museum in the world (but, surprisingly not the one with the most visitors) was quite a popular place in the second half of the 19th century, too. Travellers and artists from all around the world were visiting the museum daily. And we’re enjoying a rare opportunity of seeing some of the classical masterpieces over there.
It was common for painters at that time to copy some of the Renaissance or Baroque masters and learn to paint in that way. However, when in Louvre, Monet would look into the other direction. Through the window to its garden and would paint it instead. He spent a lot of his time painting in Les Tuileries, a garden next to the Louvre Museum. He was studying the nature, flowers and its colours there. This is where the painting below was made in 1876.
Monet visited London many times. But it was during one of his last visits between 1899 and 1901 when he made his famous series showing a Houses of Parliament. He was painting them early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Monet was trying to capture a perfect light and colours on a building. He would often paint from the terrace of St. Thomas Hospital from where he had a great view of a Parliament building.
I especially love the painting below because it captures London so well. A greyish, foggy mist that is so typical for the city. With his Impressionist brush strokes, he made it even more magical.
Monet’s stepson married a girl from Norway, and the painter came to visit them for two months during 1885. And how once he was impressed by water, now he became impressed with the colours and the light of snow. By a big surprise of a local people, he continued painting outside, even during the coldest days. But he made a lot of beautiful snow landscapes of this Nordic country.
Monet heard about Zaandam, a small place in the Netherlands during his first trip to London. He decided to spend a few months there over the summer period and paint the Dutch landscape. He was so impressed by it, that on one occasion he wrote in his letter to a painter Pissaro:
There’s enough to paint here for a whole lifetime.
And he really painted a lot. Windmills, canals and flat Dutch countryside. He made some of the most perfect postcards from the Netherlands here. Like this one from 1886.
I love seeing familiar places through the eyes of painters. And especially one of my favourite Impressionist painters, Claude Monet.
Which one of Monet’s postcards is your favourite?