Houses of Parliament, London
Oil on canvas
81 x 92 cm (31 7/8 x 36 1/4 in.)
Musee Marmottan, Paris
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The exhibition includes eight paintings from Monet's "Houses of Parliament" series. All of these paintings were done on identical sizes of canvas, from the same viewpoint overlooking the Thames from Monet's window. This series is the supreme expression of his conception of an "envelope" of interactive colored light. By providing a static subject under different light conditions, the series paintings illustrate how the changing "envelope" transforms what we perceive. This final painting of the series, however, differs from the first seven. It is titled without the additional clause used in the others to describe the momentary condition of the envelope, such as "...Sun Breaking Through the Fog" or "...Effect of Sunlight". In the earlier works, the buildings and river are inert, passively affected by the envelope of light. Here they take center stage with fantastically dynamic form. The spiraling brushstrokes of the tower sweep it upward majestically, seeming to draw contrails of the envelope into its vortex. The river, too, takes on a more aggressive aspect, the highlighted wavecrests creating a groundswell at the base of the tower that contributes to the rising effect. As the tower stretches toward the bright sky at the very pinnacle of the canvas, Monet succeeds masterfully in expressing a dazzling sense of supreme aspiration.