Two Questions About Monet’s “Apple Trees” Painting

This is Monet’s “Apple Trees in Blossom by the Water”, painted in 1880.

Monet Apples Trees in Blossom

Two questions:
1. What’s the focal point?
2. Where’s the water mentioned in the painting’s title?

Turn page 90 of Monet: The Seine and The Sea 1878–1883 by Michael Clarke and Richard Thomson, where it’s explained that:

“Such is the density of the surface activity that the painting has no conventional focus or compositional base. … This is a canvas about touch, texture and colour…”

Monet apple tree painting about colour

The trunk does leads your eye up into the branches, but then it takes it off the top. There’s so much going on with the leaves and shadows it’s hard to make out any single bit but simultaneously inviting you to get lost in it all. Paintings don’t have to have a traditional focal point, positioned according the Golden Mean, with a composition leading the viewer’s eye towards it. It’s your choice.

The water in the painting is supposedly implied by the sense of a tree growing on a bank. (It’s thought it’s one of the paintings Monet did from a river boat .) I’m not sure I’d think about it if it weren’t in the painting’s title. Would you?

Mostly I find myself wondering how Monet didn’t get fedup with all those shades of brown from burnt umber to beige, and whether in real life the painting has more yellows and green visible. What would your third question be?


6 Replies to “Two Questions About Monet’s “Apple Trees” Painting”

  1. I think that most artists sacrifice creativity by concentrating too much on focal point and color at the sacrifice of composition and value! If your composition works well and your values emphasize the depth of the composition your painting will be successful, regardless of the type (“I dislike the word style”) of image making you are using. Besides, I believe that a very important part of presenting one’s work to viewing by others is to let them discover their own “focal points” and meanings, whether or not they know what is going on behind their eyes.

  2. My focal point would be that patch of green off to the left of the painting up in the branches, that’s the first thing my eye went to.

  3. it”s hard to focus on any single point. i think some of monet’s paintings look like he was trying to capture the wind, you know when your eyes take in a scene of a gentle breeze with rustling leaves and ripples in the water? sort of blurry? anyway, that’s what i see

  4. My third question was ‘ where can I see it?’ but a search shows that it’s in a private collection. It’s very textural which I like. To me it captures a mood of a gloomy day. Which is why I wondered whether I could see it somewhere to see if the colours really are so dreary.

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