One of the best ways of learning how light and color work is to paint the same subject in different environments. Claude Monet did this all throughout his career, most notably demonstrated through his many haystack paintings.
Claude Monet did so many paintings of haystacks you would think he had some kind of obsession with them. But each painting is unique and is a fantastic demonstration of how light and color work in different environments.
Let’s go through some of his haystack paintings.
- Haystacks in Clear Weather
- Haystacks on an Overcast Day
- Frosty Haystacks at Sunrise / Sunset
- Snowy Haystacks at Sunset
- Misty Haystacks
- Haystacks at Sunrise / Sunset
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Haystacks in Clear Weather
Monet indicates clear weather by using bright colors, sharp details and a balanced color harmony.
Haystacks on an Overcast Day
The haystack painting on an overcast day is similar to the clear weather paintings, however slightly darker, less vibrant, and with a generally cooler color harmony.
Frosty Haystacks at Sunrise / Sunset
Monet indicates frost on these haystacks by using lighter and cooler colors. Notice the hint of blue and purple throughout the paintings.
Snowy Haystacks at Sunset
Here Monet indicates snow by using much cooler and darker colors, contrasting against the vibrant sun.
In this painting the mist is indicated by reduced clarity and contrast between elements.
Haystacks at Sunrise / Sunset
The haystacks at sunrise/sunset are vibrant and demonstrate a stunning contrast between warm lights and cool darks.
As you can see, there are many ways you can paint the same scene. By painting the haystacks in many different environments, Claude Monet was able to clearly demonstrate his brilliant understanding of light and color.
Every painting is extremely unique despite the same subject being used.
You should try using this method for yourself and paint the same scene in different environments. It does not need to be a haystack of course. It can be any scene but keep it simple. What you want to learn is how light and color work, so you want to be able to focus on those elements.
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You might be interested in my Painting Academy course. I’ll walk you through the time-tested fundamentals of painting. It’s perfect for absolute beginner to intermediate painters.
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11 comments on “How Claude Monet Used Haystacks to Demonstrate Light and Color”
Thanks for this wonderful lesson. I just took some photographs of some hay bales yesterday. I appreciated seeing Monet’s interpretation and seeing how he painted in many different environments. Thanks for the inspiring newsletter.
Glad you enjoyed the post! Have fun painting those haystacks 🙂
Thank you again. I am learning so much about light, contrast, value etc. I love painting . Its like stepping into another place in time.
I have always been intrigued by Monet because I usually try to be so perfect and then give up because i get lost in the detail and know that less is probably where i need to go when drawing or when I finally give myself the less is more option to delve into painting as well.
I’ve enjoyed your newsletter. I’ve learned a lot! I am self taught and really struggle with whether I’m doing well or not. You’ve been inspiring and informative! Thank you.
Did Monet leave any notes on his ‘discoveries’ from painting his 15 haystacks and 26 ‘Rouen Cathedrals’ in all sorts of weather & lighting conditions? Or do we have to draw our own conclusions?
The examples you have chosen show Monet’s remarkable tenacity at getting the light right, or at least his rendition telling the story of what he saw and felt (mood).
Really wonderful ‘thinking into the mind and mood’ of artists. I suppose it helps us express our ‘mind and mood’!
I appreciate reading your observations, tips & comments (from a very much beginning watercolourist)!
Hi Neill. Great question! I will actually look into it. But I have not come across any notes yet. Dan
Thank you Dan for generously sharing your insights. Currently unable to paint but am observing nature very closely for a time when I return to it. I look forward to your posts. Crystal
Hey Dan, I’m pretty sure your last two examples are in fact the exact same painting- they were just labeled differently by the submitting authors. I would say that together they do a good job of illustrating how much two photographs of the same artwork can differ. But look more closely at the brushstrokes, Dan: Monet may have painted many many versions of those haystacks, but he is not known for making knockoffs of his own work (repeating placement of brushstrokes exactly)!
I just wanted to let you know that I appreciate your sharing your knowledge and analysis of the masters works. 💜
hi! fascinated by this post and tread. I’m curious to know if Monet had any part in creating the hay staks, – or at least modifying them to suit his image composition. what a lovely time painting these most have been!