Mills in the Westzijderveld near Zaandam, 1871

Claude Monet (1840-1926)

  • Oil on Canvas, 47 x 73.5 cm
  • Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam*

Claude Monet paid three visits to the Netherlands. During the first of these visits he spent four months in Zaandam with his wife and child. The painter thought it ‘all very amusing. Houses in every colour, mills by the hundred and delightful boats, exceptionally friendly Hollanders who almost all speak French.’ He wrote to his friend Camille Pissarro that there was enough to paint for an entire lifetime. Or at any rate for an entire summer, as no less than 24 canvases survive from his time in Zaandam.

*Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, acquired with the financial support of the BankGiro Lottery, The Stichting Nationaal Fonds Kunstbezit (with contributions from Philips Electronics, Shell, Unilever, ABN AMRO, ING, Fortis and Heineken), the Rembrandt Association, and the assistance of the Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds and a gift from VNU, the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, the Mondrian Foundation, the VSB Fonds and the Vincent van Gogh Foundation.

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Impressionism

Monet painted the windmills at Westzijderveld from a boat. He recorded the silhouettes in an extremely direct style and used broad brushstrokes to suggest small waves on the water. The painting is a fine example of the looser, experimental style which Monet developed during the 1870s. Here the characteristics of impressionism are clearly present, as they are not in the painter’s Coastal landscape. Monet produced a spontaneous impression of the mill-studded landscape, a record of a fleeting moment. At a distance the powerful brushstrokes dissolve into a unity of dewy light and water.

Three trips to Holland

After his 1871 visit Monet returned to the Netherlands on another two occasions. In 1874 the painter travelled to Amsterdam, where he produced such works as View of the Prins Hendrikkade and the Kromme Waal in Amsterdam. In this painting Monet developed his efforts to render light and atmosphere. During his third and final visit to Holland in 1886 the artist mainly painted the bulb fields around Leiden. The intense colours of the flowers provided Monet with an ideal subject for his impressionist experiments.

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