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Haystacks at The End of Summer
Haystacks, At The End Of Summer
Oil on Canvas, 1890
63.5 x 99 cm (25 x 39 ins)
With the Monet Haystacks series, started in the late summer of 1890 and completed the following spring, Monet entered on a new period in his work. For the next thirty years he was able to concentrate almost exclusively on a few subjects: Haystacks, Poplars, Rouen Cathedral, the Houses of Parliament, the Waterlilies. What interested him henceforth was the expression of transient appearances – the motif itself would be unvarying and viewed always from the same angle, only the light would change, depending on the season, the weather and the time of day.
His method was to work on several canvases at once, devoting perhaps no more than a few minutes at a time to any one of them. It was necessary to work swiftly to capture the ‘moment’ before it dissolved. In this he was greatly assisted by his stepdaughter Blanche, who would slide the canvases into position on his easel.
On 7 October, in full flight, he wrote to Gustave Geffroy: “…the further I get, the more I see how much work it will need to convey what I am searching for: ‘instantaneity’, and above all the external ‘envelope’, the same light spread everywhere…”
The series of 25 Monet Haystacks canvases was completed by the end of the winter of 1891. Some 15 of these were exhibited by Durand-Ruel in May. For the first time there was no hostile reaction, only unanimous praise. Gustave Geffory’s preface to the exhibition catalogue is a string of hyperboles, but it also contains a sensitive account of these ‘haystacks in an empty field’.
The Monet Haystacks series had a marked influence on the younger painters, particularly the Fauves, Derain and Vlaminck. For Kandinsky, seeing examples in Moscow, and later in Munich, was one of the decisive experiences of his life. He wrote in his memoirs: “What suddenly became clear to me was the unsuspected power of the palette, which I had not understood before and which surpassed my wildest dreams”.
The success of the Haystacks series solved Monet’s problems at a stroke: most of the Haystacks canvases were sold for as much as 1,000 francs, and Monet’s prices in general began to rise steeply. This financial coup enabled him to buy outright the house and grounds at Giverny and to start constructing a waterlily pond.
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