Impression, Sunrise

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Impression, soleil levant
Claude Monet, Impression, soleil levant.jpg
Artist Claude Monet
Year 1872
Type Oil on canvas
Dimensions 48 cm × 63 cm (18.9 in × 24.8 in)
Location Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris

Impression, Sunrise (Impression, soleil levant) is a painting by Claude Monet. It gave rise to the name of the Impressionist movement.


Dated 1872, its subject is the harbour of Le Havre in France, using very loose brush strokes that suggest rather than delineate it. Monet explained the title later:

Landscape is nothing but an impression, and an instantaneous one, hence this label that was given us, by the way because of me. I had sent a thing done in Le Havre, from my window, sun in the mist and a few masts of boats sticking up in the foreground. ... They asked me for a title for the catalogue, it couldn't really be taken for a view of Le Havre, and I said: 'Put Impression.' [1]

It was first displayed in 1874[2] during the first independent art show of the Impressionists (who were not yet known by that name). Critic Louis Leroy, inspired by the painting's name, titled his hostile review of the show in Le Charivari newspaper, "The Exhibition of the Impressionists", thus inadvertently naming the new art movement. He wrote:

Impression—I was certain of it. I was just telling myself that, since I was impressed, there had to be some impression in it … and what freedom, what ease of workmanship! Wallpaper in its embryonic state is more finished than that seascape.

The painting was stolen from the Musée Marmottan Monet in 1985 by Philippe Jamin and Youssef Khimoun but recovered in 1990.[3] Since 1991 it has been back on display in the museum.[4]

Colour and luminance[edit]

Desaturated version of the painting: note how the sun is virtually invisible here.[5]

Although it may seem that the sun is the brightest spot on the canvas, it is in fact, when measured with a photometer, the same brightness (or luminance) as the sky.[5] Dr. Margaret Livingstone, a professor of neurobiology at Harvard University, said "If you make a black and white copy of Impression: Sunrise, the Sun disappears [almost] entirely."[5]

Livingstone said that this caused the painting to have a very realistic quality, as the older part of the visual cortex in the brain — shared with the majority of other mammals — registers only luminance and not colour, so that the sun in the painting would be invisible to it, while it is just the newer part of the visual cortex — only found in humans and primates — which perceives colour.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Cited by Forge, Andrew, and Gordon, Robert: Monet, page 58. Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1989.
  2. ^ Honour, H. and J. Fleming, (2009) A World History of Art. 7th edn. London: Laurence King Publishing, p. 704. ISBN 9781856695848
  3. ^ "The World's Greatest Art Heists". Forbes. 12 February 2008. Retrieved 16 November 2010. 
  4. ^ "Travel Advisory - Stolen Paintings Back in Paris Heists". The New York Times. 28 April 1991. Retrieved 16 November 2010. 
  5. ^ a b c d D'Alto, Aaron. "Odyssey", Encyclopædia Britannica, December 2007. Retrieved 17 January 2010.

External links[edit]