Access Type

Open Access Thesis

Date of Award

January 2014

Degree Type


Degree Name



Art and Art History

First Advisor

Jennifer Olmsted

Second Advisor

Dora Apel


This paper focuses on Monet's Rouen Cathedral paintings, a set of canvases painted by the artist between February 1892 and May 1895. This series has traditionally been hailed as Monet's greatest and most significant, but historical scholarship has addressed the series within an Impressionist framework. However, this paper argues instead that the Cathedral paintings no longer represented Monet as an Impressionist, but instead as an artist with entirely original and different goals for whom the nature of time had taken on new meaning. Where Monet began his endeavors in seriality with a feverish focus on the temporary and elusive - the enveloppe - in Rouen he worked and reworked the canvases, bringing them to a hand-wrought and over-worked surface unprecedented within his own work. For Monet, these paintings did not capture specific moments; they rendered an enduring and overwhelming presence entirely outside of time and place. The Rouen Cathedral series marks a distinct shift in Monet's oeuvre. With these paintings, the artist left behind Impressionism and its focus on the fleeting qualities of atmosphere and light. The Rouen Cathedral works were a declaration of his new grand ambition: to construct paintings that would endure through both their physicality and their timeless subject matter.