TRAINS AND BRIDGES-3

Monet
Train in the Countryside, 1872
Train in the Countryside is the first canvas, as far as we know, on which Monet placed a train. Its connection with leisure is clear, for in the foreground is a park. Along a raised embankment steams a train. Monet's horizontals and verticals, blended in with the gentle undulations of foliage, smoke, and shadows, depict the integration of the railway with the well-tended landscape of the Parisian suburbs.

The train moves behind a thick screen of leaves. In the foreground is a public park where seven strollers have sought the shade, while in the open, a lone man protects himself from the summer sun with a parasol. A woman stands nearby, also with parasol, and a child. The three sunlit figures are standing facing us. Whatever the origins of Monet's idea, the result is to make us feel like train travelers looking out upon a passing scene. We are viewers being viewed, and since the train passengers are over there in the distance, the whole picture seems to be about the pleasures of sightseeing.

Monet
Railway Bridge at Argentueil, 1874
About a year later, after he had settled in Argenteuil, Monet again painted more trains. This time he minimized foliage, and exposed the railway bridge, which sweeps across the plane, creating a strong, dynamic movement. Our point of view is part way up the slope of the embankment.

Monet's painting of the bridge did not mean an endorsement of the industry which was then rapidly expanding at Argenteuil. Corot and Daubigny, from whom Monet learned so much, would never have painted this bridge, because for them it would have been an obtrusive sign of the encroachment of Paris on the countryside. They used the railroad to go back and forth to the suburbs, but they painted older bridges to distance themselves from the city. By comparison with them, Monet seems like a spokesman for the changes affecting the once-rural villages along the Seine. However, at Argenteuil, he screened out much of local industry. He showed factories only at a distance or else he avoided them entirely.

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