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Group: The Series

Artist: Claude MONET
Birth/Death: 1840–1926

Title: Poplars
Date Made: 1891

Lender: Philadelphia Museum of Art
Credit Line: Gift of Chester Dale

Monet’s compositional structure based on dynamic coloured line is fully developed in his Poplars series. Such a structure meant that he no longer needed the linear grid, inspired by Japanese prints, to control his mobile viewpoints (as in The railway bridge at Argenteuil). The Poplars did not depend Japanese images of lines of silhouetted trees, such as Eisen’s Itahana or Hokusai’s Hodogaya on the To¯kaido¯ Road.

Poplars (exhibited in 1892 with the title, Poplars. Three trees — autumn) is constructed from smaller brushstrokes of brilliant warm colours that radiate energy. The trunks of the closest trees are formed from broadly drawn coloured lines, violet contrasting with yellow and orange, while the foliage and trunks of the distant trees are drawn in iridescent lines of yellow and orange, dynamic in their upward thrust and the contrast of orange and yellow against luminous transparent patches of saturated green, violet and blue representing the sky. Each painting is full of a coloured light so intense that it could confirm Duret’s claim that the Japanese ‘saw in the open air a scale of brilliant colours that the European eye had never seen, and, left to itself, would probably never have discovered’.

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