This sketch has a sense of incompleteness about it: the sitter's head in much finer detail than the rest of him. The lower part of his body, such as his chest and his hands are just sketched in with fine lines and plenty of blank space.
Indeed, were it not for the title - Michel Monet Reading - the viewer may not even have realised that this drawing depicts a boy reading in the first place. The focus is very much on Michel Monet and his concentration in the act of reading - what he is actually reading is tantalisingly left unclear.
Michel Monet was Claude Monet's son with his wife Camille. This sketch, then, takes us to the heart of Monet's family life. There is definitely a sense that this drawing was completed during a family gathering: the son sits absorbed in his book whilst his father sketches him.
Depicting the immediacy of a very specific moment was something that Monet focused on throughout his career, achieving this not just through sketches and drawings but also through pastel pieces on paper and oil on canvas works. Indeed, one of the key features of the Impressionist movement was artists creating paintings in situ - of natural or urban phenomena at a particular moment in time.
Michel Monet was born in 1878, so he was around 7 years old when this sketch was made. Michel Monet Reading is not the only work of art that Claude Monet created that depicted his son. He also did various pastel drawings of him in different attitudes and outfits. He depicted his sons Claude and Jean many times, including one iconic picture in a beautiful field of flowers with their mother sewing in the centre of the painting.
Monet created several charcoal sketches throughout his life. Another sketch, completed at around the same time as Michel Monet Reading, for example, is called Figure of a Woman and it depicts a woman standing in profile with a long dress and a bonnet with ribbons on her head.
Like Michel Monet Reading this sketch leaves some aspects of the sitter unfinished - for example though (as with Michel Monet Reading) her face is drawn with realistic detail, there are several parts in the wide expanse of her gown that simply consist of white space or a seemingly careless sweep of charcoal.
Sketches like Figure of a Woman and Michel Monet Reading are more realistic than many of Monet's other, more dreamlike, works. These sketches also do not have the rich and vivid colours of Monet's characteristic oil paintings - they are created in black, white and shades of grey. However, in their immediacy they are very much part of the Impressionist way of working.