How Many Bridge Paintings did Monet Paint?

The French painter, Claude Monet (14 November 1840 to 5 December 1926) was the founder of French impressionist painting. As an Impressionist, he always attempted to paint nature as he perceived it.

He helped pioneer the light and air effects and emphasis on accurate depiction of light and shadow and the “Plein air” technique, which became hallmarks of the Impressionist movement and the Claude Monet artworks in the early 1860s.

According to most art historians, there are 1,189 Claude Monet paintings. However, there are several almost identical paintings. According to Monet art lovers, his bridge paintings form the best-known series. This is because he usually painted a bridge as perceived at a specific time of the day, and then later, he would paint it from other perspectives. Thus, his bridge paintings generally form a series of paintings of the same bridge. 

Japanese Footbridge- Where it all Started

Claude Monet’s famous paintings of a Japanese footbridge are most probably the best known of all his bridge paintings. He created the iconic oil painting “The Japanese Footbridge” in 1899, and after that, he made many other iterations of the same structure. 

It all started when Monet and his family moved to Giverny, a village in the northern parts of France, in 1883. He rented a home in Giverny and bought it later on. He also located some land with a pond close to his home. Monet converted it into a water garden, which was inspired and influenced by the Japanese style. The water lilies in the pond became the primary subject matter for his series, with around 250 iterations of paintings called the “Water Lily Series.”  

In 1895 he added a wooden bridge to the garden, built in a Japanese style. This bridge was the inspiration for his painting “The Japanese Footbridge.” 

Japanese Footbridge– the Original and the Iterations

There are 12 iterations of the “Japanese Footbridge.” Each of the 12 paintings explores the bridge and water garden from a different “view.” These paintings vary slightly in their composition, and nowadays, they are not exhibited as a “unit” but are housed in various galleries where Monet’s art is exhibited. 

When you look, for instance, at the original “Japanese Bridge,” you can see a vertical composition that consists of the arched bridge towards the upper part of the painting. Monet left minimal space between the top edge of the painting and the upper part of the bridge. He created a “border” around the painting. To give the bridge a different feeling, he changed the border and created a space between the top of the painting and the bridge in one of the iterations, “Water Lilies and Japanese Bridge.

Water Lily Pond – Claude Monet

The paintings in the “Japanese Footbridge” series are typical Impressionist paintings. However, they were painted outside, in the new “Plein air” style. Monet artist sought to paint outside to capture the natural light on the bridge at different hours of the day and from different views.

Waterloo Bridge Series

When you check Claude Monet famous paintings, you’ll discover another well-known series of paintings is Monet’s “Waterloo Bridge” series. The painting named “Waterloo Bridge” is one in a series of his paintings of the famous bridge in London. 

The pictures in this “Waterloo Bridge” series share the same viewpoint overlooking the Thames. The difference between the paintings is that they depict a different time of the day or different weather or light conditions. Monet painted the bridge over 40 times. If you study all these different “Waterloo Bridge” paintings, you’ll learn more about Monet as an artist. 

Although most of the “Waterloo Bridge” paintings were done outside in the “Plein air” style, the painting “Waterloo Bridge, Gray Day” was painted after Monet had ceased his earlier practice of entirely completing a painting on the spot. 

Monet continued refining the images back at his home base in France. Sometimes he also used photographs to assist him. Some art lovers and scholars criticize this approach as it is not “pure” Impressionism.

More About the “Waterloo Bridge” Series

Waterloo Bridge Sunlight In The Fog – Claude Monet

Monet created more than 40 “Waterloo Bridge” paintings, and the following are some of the most famous masterpieces in the series: 

  • “Waterloo Bridge” – currently in the Denver Art Museum
  • “Waterloo Bridge, Gray Day” – currently in the National Gallery of Art, DC
  • “Waterloo Bridge: the Sun in the Fog” – is now in the National Gallery of Canada
  • “Waterloo Bridge. Effect of Fog” – currently in the Hermitage Museum
  • “Waterloo Bridge in London” – currently in the National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo
  • “Waterloo Bridge” by Claude Monet – currently in the Kunsthalle Hamburg

If you check out Claude Monet’s paintings, you’ll see his “Waterloo Bridge” paintings depict the former bridge, not today’s Waterloo Bridge. The paintings show the original bridge on the site, which opened in 1817. The original granite bridge had nine arches that were separated by double Doric stone columns. The bridge connected the Thames River’s elegant north side, where the Savoy Hotel was located, and the south side with its industrial factories. In the 1930s, the old bridge was demolished.

Other Bridge Paintings by Claude Monet

The paintings of bridges in Monet’s “Japanese Footbridge” series and his “Waterloo Bridge” series are not his only bridge paintings. Another group of bridge paintings, for instance, were created when he lived for about two years in Argenteuil on the river Seine

At that stage, the town was rebuilding its two bridges, which had been destroyed during the Franco-Prussian war. Monet used the bridges as subject matter for innovative visual experiments. He played around with perspective, form, light, and composition. In Monet’s paintings, the bridges became symbols of Argenteuil’s post war return to order and prosperity. For Monet, it was the equilibrium between artificial structures and nature.

In one of the paintings, namely “Le Pont de Bois,” Monet carefully constructed the painting. A single span of the Argenteuil highway bridge frames the scene; sailboats are moored near the banks of the river, a church is seen in the distance, a steamboat is pictured on the calm river, and silhouetted figures are walking across the bridge to illustrate a town that is restored to its former glory.

The Bottom Line

Monet also created more bridge paintings during his stay in Argenteuil, such as “Argenteuil, The Bridge Under Repair” and “The Railroad Bridge at Argenteuil.” Claude Monet created many bridge paintings, but they were not of so many bridges. Instead, he experimented with light, color, perspective, and views of a few bridges.