1874; Oil on canvas, 60 x 80 cm; Louvre, Paris
Whereas Manet gained effect by sparkling accents standing out against low tones in his open-air pictures, Monet worked out the equation of light and colour more comprehensively and in more variety. In The Bridge at Argenteuil the equivalence is complete, the glow of light produced by pure and unmixed colour pervades the canvas and surrounds the forms appearing in it. The interplay between the short strokes indicative of ripples and the larger areas of colour is made with a typical flexibility of skill.
The accusation is sometimes made against the Impressionists that in their concern with atmosphere they lost sight of qualities of form and composition. Analysis of this painting would show, in spite of its apparent lack of pre-intended arrangement, how coherent it is in design. The verticals of the masts, of the houses and bridge piers and their reflections are set down firmly with an obvious sense of their pictorial value. There are those echoes of form and colour in which harmony of composition is to be found. The line of the furled sail is caught by the ribbed sky at the left; the warm tones of buildings are echoed in the details of the yachts; the dapple of clouds in the blue sky (with its deeper richness of blue in reflection) has its tonal equivalent in the reflections of the boats. To relax and look at the picture without analytic effort, however, is to see it resolve into an idyllic vision in which modern life has introduced no jarring note.