Forty-five

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La Cathédrale de Rouen, le portail, soleil matinal, harmonie bleue

1894 by Claude Monet
Musée d’Orsay

In much the same way as Whistler composed his nocturne pieces – orchestrations of tone and colour, oppose to music – Monet created painterly masterpieces, taking an image and applying different harmonies by way of colour to evoke a certain atmosphere. The atmosphere here is morning sun, soleil matinal, and the harmony blue. The comparison is so apt, to paint as a composer; to apply the coolness of blue as the creeping chill of a minor chord. In Monet’s harmonie bleue it is gold that appears to have the crescendo; beginning in deep tones from the bottom of the canvas, deeply burning inside the cavernous church doors, it then climbs to glistening golden notes at the peak of the spires and turrets. The rising of the morning sun, creeping up the cathedral, is heard throughout the painting with the movement of brush strokes; a melody on a background of blue. Blue – the harmony – answers the gold across the painting, sounding the coolness of stone, the deep and poignant presence of the vast building the sun has come to illuminate. The haze of early morning light is captured brilliantly through these dappled filters of blue and gold; any sharpness of architecture is softened, blurred, making reality succumb to atmospheric music.

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