Even though London’s Waterloo Bridge appears in each of the nine paintings, the focus is not on the bridge itself! The focus of the paintings is the the ever-changing light and color that Monet saw between himself and the bridge.
Known for his gorgeously rendered landscape series, Monet sought to make the intangibles of the atmosphere visible in his Waterloo Bridge paintings—making each one unique yet related to the group as a whole.
H. Bedford Lemere, British, Waterloo Bridge and the Victoria Embankment from the Savoy Hotel, 1893
At the turn of the 20th century, London was famous for the dense fog that almost constantly hung over the city. Monet found beauty in the murkiness, which was primarily caused by the city’s notorious pollution. The smoggy haze and the reflected light surrounding the bridge during high and low tides gave him virtually endless opportunities to explore how the diffused light and atmosphere affected the colors of the River Thames.
He ultimately painted more than 40 versions of the Waterloo Bridge working directly from the balcony of his room at London’s fashionable Savoy Hotel.
Waterloo Bridge, Sunlight Effect (Effet de Soleil), 1903, Oil on canvas, Denver Art Museum, Denver, Colorado, Lent by Denver Art Museum.
More than half of the Waterloo Bridge paintings that exist in North American public collections are brought together in this exhibition at The Worcester Art Museum. This rare opportunity allows the public to compare nine different interpretations from this London series as the artist intended them to be explored—as a group.
Viewing the paintings as a collection allows the viewer to truly appreciate the subtleties, nuances, and variations of light, color, and atmosphere. And, as only Monet could do, each version of the bridge is painted using a brilliant palette—showing the fog and haze not in dreary tones, but in vivid variations of purple, blue, green, yellow, and orange.
For example, in the Denver Art Museum’s Waterloo Bridge, Sunlight Effect (shown in the image above), we see the sunlight breaking through the dense purple smog and reflecting in bright orange and yellow on the river below.