In 1899 Monet painted the Japanese Bridge that went across the pond in his garden at Giverny. The painting is an oil painting on canvas. Like his other works such as the Haystacks and Parliament, Monet did not just produce the one painting of the bridge.
Claude Monet is noted as having painted several pictures that show the bridge and its surroundings. Each one shows it at a different time of the day or a different point in the seasons.
The focus of the painting is the bridge. In the composition, the bridge covers the full width of the picture effectively dividing it in half. The bridge is always an arched wooden bridge that is shown being held up by a number of supports.
The bridge’s colour differs in each iteration of the painting. This is due to the colour reflecting both nature and the light in which it was painted.
With the painting being one of two halves, the top half shows the branches and leaves of the willow trees that dominate the background behind the bridge and surround the pond.
With the bottom half of the painting, Monet illustrates the pond with its water lilies and flowers. The water lilies would lead him to create another series of his notable works.
Just as he depicts the bridge in different colours so to it is the same for the flowers in the pond. In some views, the water, the lilies and the flowers are a mixture of reds and orange while in others, they can appear as a combination of vibrant green and soft blue with occasional highlights in pink.
What is clear from the painting is that by using a vertical format, he has placed the focus on the water lilies and their reflections in the water.
What the painting shows in its completeness is a scenery that displays both alternating light sources along with mirror-like reflections. In using this, they became the main feature of Monet’s work.
As a series of paintings showing the bridge what can be seen in all of them is the surface of the bond bathed in light, the arching footbridge across the pond as well as the surrounding flora.
The series of views of the bridge and water lilies were put on display at the Durand-Ruel’s gallery in Paris in 1900. It is said that his critics commented on his debt to Japanese art.
History of the Bridge
In 1883 Monet moved with his family into a house in rural Giverny. Almost from the start, he began to develop the property. Opposite the house where he and his family lived was a strip of land that had a small brook running through it. Purchasing the land he went on to enlarge the property. A keen horticulturist, Monet diverted the stream turning the additional area into a water garden. Hiring craftsman and gardeners to do the work, a lot of attention was paid to developing it to his detailed designs. It meant that there were weeping willows, iris and bamboo growing around what had become a pond. In that pond were clusters of water lilies and blossoms that floated on the still water. In creating the garden, he used craftsman to build the Japanese bridge that crossed over the pond. The garden is considered by some to be a major work of environmental art. For Monet, the garden was a passion and a source of artistic inspiration for almost 30 years.
The Meaning of the Japanese Bridge
When Monet began painting the garden and the water lilies, he did so at first with views oriented vertically. The Japanese bridge was the central feature of the picture. Later he went on to produce large scale paintings.
The picture of the Japanese Bridge allows those who view it to experience being in the garden. As the bridge intersects the view, there can be seen the rich foliage of the canopy provided by the willow trees at the top of the canvas. There is no sky in the picture. Below the bridge can be seen an intricate pattern across the surface of the pond. While there blue and green tones are predominating the pictures, these are balanced by the pink, white and yellow lilies that float across the surface. Through Monet’s use of different strokes, he is able to emphasise the shared coming together of the paint and the landscape. His bringing together of Japanese motifs with that of his Impressionist palette and brushstrokes allows Monet to show nature's importance.
Monet’s gardens and his later paintings both shown the appeal that was apparent on the effects that time and weather have on the landscape. With both, Monet used them to express his unique visual awareness and emotional response to nature. In developing the water garden at his property in Giverny he has used the opportunity to shape nature in a way that allowed him to create views that he could paint.
Several artists influenced Monet's style of painting and his works. Over the years this included the likes of Manet, Boudin, Hokusai and Jongkind. Equally, Monet’s style of painting has also influenced other painters. Monet is considered by many to be a founder of the French Impressionist movement. The term ‘Impressionism’ is said to come from the title of his painting ‘Impression, Sunrise’. His style of painting was very much about landscapes and nature. Unlike other more traditional painters of landscapes, Monet differed in that he tended to paint in the open air or en Plein air as it was known. Rather than produce his works from memory or drawings he opted for direct impressions of what he observed of nature. Being able to paint in the open air was an essential part of the impressionist style.
In his paintings, he sought to try and show nature and how it appeared to him at a particular moment in time. One of the ways in which he did this was to experiment with light and shadow and how they changed throughout the day. Monet was considered to be a careful painter who reworked his canvasses many times. The result was that he was an artist who sought to paint directly from what he observed of nature and while the conditions allowed him to do so. This meant that when Monet painted outside, he might be working on several canvasses each day. All he would do is set up the easel at the edge of the lily pond and work on several paintings as if it were all part of a single picture.
Monet made use of strong colours in his paintings that he did not mix. He used them directly on the canvas in short brush strokes, and by doing so, he built up vast fields of colour. This allowed for the exploration of the different ways that colours could be combined and contrasted. His single brushstrokes often did not look as if they were finished. This led to Monet receiving criticism that he only gave an impression of what he was displaying. At the time Monet was criticised by some artists who believed that his style was lacking in detail and did not follow established painting techniques. His critics are reported to have said that in lacking detail his paintings did not resemble finished works.
Monet died at his house in Giverny in 1926 at the age of 86. During his long career, he is credited with producing a large number of works. Like the Japanese Bridge, a number of his works were a series of paintings rather than a single piece. Although a popular painter during his lifetime, it was in the second half of the 20th century that Monet’s popularity grew. His works are today extremely popular as can be seen in a large number of popular commercial items that feature his works.
Claude Monet is a noted French painter, born in 1840 in Paris, France. At the age of five, Monet’s family moved to Le Havre on the Normandy coast where he was raised. Growing up his father wanted him to go into the family business of selling provisions to ships. Instead of this, his mother encouraged him to pursue his dream of being a painter. Monet's early success as an artist came in his teenage years with the sale of cartoon drawings that were both carefully observed and well-drawn. In addition to this, he also produced sketches in pencil of sailing ships. The drawings were said to be almost technical in the detail they gave. When it comes to painting, Monet was a founder of the French Impressionist movement. He is credited with producing a large number of works as a painter of figures and later landscapes. During his long career, Monet is credited with having created over 2,500 paintings, drawings and pastels as well as notable works including his paintings of the Japanese Bridge in the garden of his house in Giverny, France.
Monet bridge paintings are common throughout the career of this famous French impressionist artist but most depict the same bridge, namely the Japanese bridge constructed in the Giverny garden at Claude Monet's home. This website displays all the best depictions that Monet produced within his garden of this stylish bridge whose creation was very carefuly planned by the painter whose garden was always to be an important factor in his career as he continued to experiment with different scenes within altering time, seasons and at different angles.
Monet's Japanese Bridge painting was created from a straight position, looking straight down the main length of the pond. This view offers a symmetry between the bridge and the surrounding scenery that makes an ideal painting for the art mainstream who traditionally like art that fits into clear layouts with colour and beauty but not to much abstractive imagination. This of course does not cover all art fans of the modern era, but most would prefer this particular painting over the other versions that Monet created of his bridge because of the linear angles that it uses.
The above painting serves to outline both Monet's bridge plus also his incredible collection of stylish water lilies which brought so much artistic life out of his enchantingly quiet pond that was deliberately created solely to handle the particular flowers and scenery which the artist planned to study within his future works.
The Japanese Bridge painting above centres in on the left hand side of the bridge along with great detail around it which includes a small footpath which winds around towards the bridge as well as some purple flowers that line that pond from where the famous water lilies can be seen. This painting has an abundance of natural life which is communicated by the artist through the medium of colour and detail with a busy set of brushstrokes combining great striking colour right across the work, with little let up.
The specific white paint across Monet's bridge served as an excellent artistic opportunity to contrast it from it's complex foreground and background allowing the painting to comfortably focus on the bridge, where that was the obvious focus of the painting. You can see from the painting immediately above the Monet would get across the feeling of light by use of lighter colours and shades such as the predominance of yellows and light greens whilst the shaded areas were given alternative tones of reds and purples which would always be equally beautiful but with a darker shade that suggested a lower level of light.
The Giverny garden of Monet is displayed at it's incredibly bright and beautiful best in the painting above which is a cropped print that allows great detail on the bridge and water lilies that float underneath it. The popularity of prints has led to many choosing amended versions of original classics to either match their own required dimensions to fit perfectly in their own home, or offer an alternative detailed version that centres in on a chosen area of the work. You can see from the painting above that Monet had produced a garden that was covered from top to toe with natural beauty and there seemed no area left alone, allowing colour to flood his paintings from whatever angle he choose to create them.
Claude Monet produced a complex series of different items within his garden that over the year after it's completion slowly grew together to create a more natural looking scene which was ideal for his paintings. Despite the complexity of this garden and the huge number of items that could be found within it there are only a few for which it is best known by casual observers of his career, with the waterlilies within the lake plus the Japanese bridge that passes over them remaining the most iconic of memories from his Giverny garden. You can also discover Monet waterlilies here.
Water Lilies and Japanese Bridge still ranks as one of the best known paintings from the entire career of Claude Monet and you can see that above, along with links to where you can buy your own reproductions of it as a framed art print, poster or stretched canvas. The combination of nature with styled architecture plus the different colours that this angle within his Giverny garden offered, make it an absolutely classic impressionist painting which rises even beyond the career of this exceptionally talented French artist to place itself within the best paintings of that whole century. It's qualities are still very much appreciated today and this underlines the way Monet could always look to the future with his technical ability that seemed contemporary many years after his paintings were produced.
Claude Monet was also famous for some other key topics within his paintings besides his Japanese Bridge, one of which being Sunsets and sunrise. Monet sunset paintings are currently amongst his most reproduced paintings from his entire career and this can be put down to the great colours that they add to any scene and the fact the impressionist followers are already sold on the importance of bright colour on canvas as a way of bringing a scene to life.
Hi, I'm Tom!
I'm the writer and founder of MonetPaintings.org. I have studied different art movements for over 15 years, and am also an amateur artist myself! Read my bio here.