Claude Monet belonged to the Impressionist genre of artists who aimed to preserve “the visual freshness of the first fleeting moment” (Heinrich 32) of a scene. In his portrayal, the artist did not categorise or differentiate the various objects in the scene through traditional artistic principles. Monet’s subject matter on canvas were the first impressions of a scene, composed of “blocks of colours, surface patterns, and the very air as defined by light” (Heinrich 32). The artist termed his concept as l’instantaneite, and made it his life’s work. However, he experienced despair at times, due to the unresolvable contradiction that is inherent in the aim to preserve permanently the passing moment.
Boulevard des Capucines (Fig.1 below) is a distinctive portrayal of the busy Paris boulevard from an aerial perspective, viewed through the cold and damp air of winter (Nelson-Atkins, 2008). The painting portrays crowds hurrying along the pavement, and has the “blurred schematic look of an early photograph” (Ruhrberg et al 7). The brushwork of all Impressionist paintings contributed to their looking like early photographs which had a coarse-grained texture. Further, Impressionist paintings emphasized light effects in the scene; and this is evident in Monet’s flickering representation of haze and light using vibrant dabs of paint for the snow-covered ground, the people and the background images. This is supported by Forgione (p.671) who believes that in this painting human bodies look hazy, distorted, and are “reflective surfaces whose integrity is compromised by penetrating atmospheric vibrations”.
Other typically impressionist features of the painting are the blue shadows and the depiction of pedestrians using bold, individual brush strokes. The forms are made to appear blurred in order to represent motion with people walking briskly in the cold air. Nelson-Atkins (2008) reiterates that Monet depicted the elusive quality of movement with