Rachael Rawson

Rhythm and Harmony in Claude Monet’s Haystacks and Waterlilies

Rachael Rawson

In Claude Monet’s series the Haystacks and the Waterlilies, the artist’s interests in lighting, color, and fleeting moments are easy to identify. However, in this paper, I focus on the ways that Monet perceived and created harmony as well as rhythm within his depictions of nature in these two series. Studying the techniques of the composer Claude Debussy alongside Monet’s work, reveals an emphasis on timbre, spontaneity, changes, and the effects of the passage of time that come together and create a narrative. But what kind of narrative exactly? Monet’s art and series work are rooted in fleeted moments and direct experiences of the world around him; he has the ability to capture the “instantaneity” of a specific moment. This “instantaneity” is present in both the Haystacks and the Waterlilies series. This thesis paper follows the art historian Louis Gillet’s claims about Monet’s “[a]stonishing painting, without pattern or borders, a song without words, a painting where the artist’s only subject is himself,” examining the works in both the Haystacks and the Waterlilies series to analyze how Monet creates harmony and rhythm in his art. Monet calls on his viewers to see the world how it really is, not how one thinks they should see it. Looking at the world through this lens offers us the chance to search for the harmony and rhythms found in nature.

Figure 1: Water-Lillies, Setting Sun, Claude Monet, 1907, Oil on Canvas

Figure 2: The Japanese Footbridge, Claude Monet, 190-22, Oil on Canvas

Figure 3: Haystacks, End of Summer, Claude Monet, 1891, Oil on Canvas