Impressionism is generally presented as a painting style that captures the first and immediate impression our eyes experience as we see the light, the colors and the atmosphere in a landscape or a scene.
We are also told about the benefits of painting outside, outdoor, "en plein air" in French, to capture this unique impression the artist gets from the light, the natural colors and the ambient atmosphere.
The explanation we are given for the small dimensions of Impressionist paintings is that the artist had to be able to carry the painting under his arm, into the field, to paint on it instantly, like a photographer taking a shot of a unique event that will not last.
Claude Monet is the father of Impressionism. The name comes from the title of the painting he exhibited in 1874 Impression Sunrise. We naturally believe that he painted and operated like we were told the impressionists did.
Monet himself promoted the belief that he would set up his easel in front of a beautiful scene and would spontaneously proceed to paint it, to capture the fleeting impression it made at that very moment.
How surprising then, that he produced thousands of preparatory sketches and drawings. While he had us believe he was busily painting, he was busily drawing. While we believed he was capturing "the moment" he was sketching the scene and would paint "the moment" back at the studio, perhaps a year later.
He did finally admit in 1920—when he was 80 years of age—"You must begin by drawing … Draw simply and directly, with charcoal, crayon or whatever, above all observing the contours, because you can never be too sure of holding on to them, once you start to paint."
He would work on his paintings sometimes for weeks and even months, in his studio. Not any differently from how generations of painters before him had done. He reworked and completed his 1892 and 1893 Rouen Cathedral paintings in 1894. He finished 25 of his London, Charing Cross Bridge paintings, when he was back in Giverny.
Regardless of the fact that Monet didn’t want us to know he was drawing and sketching and doing a lot of studio work, it is extremely useful for our authentications that he left us thousands of sketches and drawings. We use them as strong supporting evidence to help prove that a painting is probably authentic.
Monet did not stick to one carnet manufacturer. He used different ones. For example among his 1856 carnets the first consisted of twenty-eight drawings measuring 205 x 270 millimeters, and the second held nineteen drawings measuring 190 by 290 millimeters. Among the Marmottan Museum carnets, number I covers the years 1865-1919. It is 263 x 352 mm. Carnet VIII covers 1908 only and is 147 x 96 mms. The 8 Marmottan sketchbooks seem to hold about 400 individual drawings. There is evidence of removed pages in some of the carnets.
Another aspect is that while he signed most of the 2,000 paintings he produced, most of his thousands of drawings are not signed. Some can be authenticated researching them in reverse, by identifying the paintings they preceded.
Monet was a serial painter. His painting series include:
If you have a painting or drawing that is possibly by Monet, send us some photos of it. We might be able to authenticate it for you.