The Seine at Saint-Cloud Edvard Munch Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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The Seine at Saint-Cloud by Edvard Munch feels entirely impressionist in style. In fact, this was an artist who made use of many impressionist techniques and ideas within his work, even though he will always be considered as much more of an expressionist painter.

This painting arrived in 1890, at which point the artist was still relatively and young and certainly still finding his chosen direction within the art world. He would have been in his twenties, and French art would be a key influence on him at this time. When considering the composition found within The Seine at Saint-Cloud, it will remind many of various items from the Impressionist movement, such as Bridge at Argenteuil and Sailing Boat in Argenteuil by Claude Monet as well as The Seine at Asnieres the Skiff by Renoir. Even just this river itself was a must-visit for any budding artist, particularly those who were interested in landscape painting and also had studied the key members of the impressionist movement. One can also draw comparisons with several artworks from Alfred Sisley too, who was a British member of this group, but essentially considered himself French in so many ways.

If we study this particular painting, we find a single boat making its way across the river, with a small jetty in front of us. A tall tree in the very foreground provides a vertical balance to the painting, with almost every other item featured here providing a horizontal balance. There is a row of houses in the far background with trees lining the roads between them. No figures are included here, although there clearly would have been a number within the boat that passes by but there is minimal detail on it. Perhaps it is a rowing boat, with individual rowers indicated by dabs of blue paint to include their heads, but it is hard to tell without seeing this painting in person. It can be found in the Munch Museum in Oslo, offering an important contrast to the normal artworks from his career that we are far more acquainted with. It also shows his ability to work as an impressionist artist, if he so desired, but that his movement elsewhere was a personal decision as he started to connect with the inner turmoil that impacted most of his lifetime.

There are also elements of pointilism within this painting, which was not strictly an official part of impressionism but can often be seen merged together in some artist's work. It involves creating form through spots of colour which then turn into recognisable items when viewed at a distance. Again, this is a young artist seeking to learn and try out different techniques, still unsure as to what he actually wanted to produce in the long term. We see his versatility here, making this an important painting. European art history throughout the 19th century is full of the exchange of ideas and also the process of moving from one generation to the next, where ideas were carried forward but with new techniques added on top.