Oh, how I love this painting! It is Impressionism in full swing.
Everything in this work is an impression. The picture seems to be a snapshot, like a photograph, captured in one particular moment of time.
Colour and movement
Claude Monet painted Woman with a Parasol outdoors, somewhere in the meadows near Argenteuil, in summer 1875. It was probably a single session of several hours. The woman depicted is the artist’s beloved first wife Camille. The boy is their son Jean, 7-years-old at that time.
This painting is alive! The whitest areas of clouds seem shimmering with light, greens of the grass and wildflowers appear to be waggled by the wind, and swirls of fabric around the main figure literally put her into motion. The boy, moved further back and partially concealed by the vegetation, creates a sense of depth.
It is executed with impressionistic bravado. I can feel haste in loose and rapid brushstrokes but the overall effect is absolutely stunning. The human silhouettes are seamlessly merged into the environment, created with intertwining areas of different colours rather than separated by lines.
A household Madonna
And now the twisted point of view. The painter himself (or we, viewers) seems to be at the bottom of Camille’s feet. She rises from the ground to the sky with a parasol as the ultimate connecting rod. Oddly enough the sun does not put her in the spotlight. It is above and a little bit behind her.
Such an unusual perspective has been used before. Great Renaissance masters have portrayed in that way Virgin Mary, looking at us from above. Is madame Monet reinvented by her husband as a real-life Madonna?
Look how fragile Camille’s face is. Forces of surrounding colours burst into it with ease, filter through facial features and blend in. I can see her dot-like eyes, partly obscured by ribbons or veil… Or is it an astray piece of the cloud swirling above her head?