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It's 1874, Gennevilliers, France on the banks of the Seine and Manet captures this timeless moment of his friend Monet painting in his studio boat.
Monet's wife, Camille, is in the cabin in front of him and Monet himself is focused on his easel, adding fine detail to the painting before him. While Monet paints his oil on canvas, lost in capturing the landscape before him with a serious and determined look on his face and a firm grip on his brush, Camille's gaze looks downwards and her hands clasp her shawl tightly around her shoulders. She looks at the painter's hand or beyond it. Is she a conversation partner? What is her role in the painter's life? The viewer is left wondering.
Perhaps the painting by Manet is an allegory for Monet's life. The life of an artist who sacrifice for his art and achieves mediocre success in his life. Monet painted landscapes; Manet painted people. Monet was dirt poor; Manet was somewhat better off and would loan money to his friend. Manet had taken the view that the painter had a more traditional role in society and did not rely on his painting for his income; Monet was of the view that the painter follows his passion in the open air and bought a boat to live and paint in. Of course he brought Camille with him, too. She was after all indispensable.
Regardless, Monet Painting in His Studio Boat is a mystifying picture. We have Monet, the poor landscape painter with the sad wife painting a landscape. And if one zooms out to the perspective of Manet, we see a better-off painter who successfully navigates both the world of art and the world of commerce. Manet earns an income and paints in his spare time. Manet takes up the new trend of painting outdoors, but instead continues to paint people.
From one point of view people are better to paint because it's easier to sell a painting to a person just painted. But from another point of view is not Monet considered a greater artist than Manet? Has not Monet achieved a greater legacy than Manet? Scholars might wrangle and tussle over the details with words and diatribes, but it would be hard to disagree if one were forced to compare. Thanks to Monet's influence, Manet's paintings became lighter and his colour palette brighter. Manet also learned how to create impressionistic light effects with ripples on the water, as can clearly be seen in Monet Painting in His Studio Boat. The original painting is located in the Neue Pinakothek, Munich, Germany.