Re: "In The Meadow" (Claude Monet)
I don't normally respond to posts where folks don't let me dabble with their work, but you are working on one of my favorite painters during one of my favorite portions of his career, so I am happily making an exception for this.
There was a short time during the years at Argenteuil when Monet was enjoying his family and the also the closeness of Renior and Manet. His mastery of the play of light and atmosphere on the subject takes on a special poetry during this time. Perhaps it was due to his happiness of enjoying time in his first garden which is revealed in the pictures made in the area. In this and other works during the early to mid 1870's Monet often included figures - particularly his family in the paintings. In these paintings he creates a compact world almost like a home outside. The figures during this time become less and less important, but what does come into play is the relationship the figure has with the environment and the interaction of the figure with the surroundings. It's almost as if he sees them merge with it and calmed by it, as much a part of it as if they were sleeping in their bed.
Color Vibration or broken color is one of the things which the impressionists are known for. It is a way of enlivening the passages which otherwise wouldn't have much to say, and helps to mimic nature in her complexity. When you study the original there is broken color everywhere. Monet could draw with the best of them and his piece this was no exception. The eyes almost squinted tightly because of the book or papers she was reading were bright due to the strong sun. The cheeks are rosey, and the forehead is in shadow - though a brightly lit shadow. To me, that particular passage is fascinating... all the broken color in such a small shadowed area gives your eyes something to delight in and makes the shadow transparent and full of life. I mean, look at the strength of the yellow he placed next to her eyes! Just wow. I think it's one of the most brilliantly genius passages in this particular painting. The blush of her cheeks is echoed in the flowers in the hat and there is a transmitted light on the earlobe which is incredibly saturated. Wow. Even the earlobe has broken color in it. When you look at the underside of the umbrella you will notice how much green is there of different values and saturations. Again, these areas bring so much life to a shadow.
Perhaps you could look again at the shape of the umbrella and the size of her face since neither is quite correct. Monet actually painted enough information on the face to turn the forms without making it static and hard. Softness is everywhere yet through the strict attention to values and color he makes it appear as if there is a hard edge even though there isn't. For example look at the coolness of her neck next to the warmth of the ear lobe and the rosey-ness of the cheek. These two areas next to each other help to emphasize the difference and make the edges vibrate. The small dark under her chin which is likely a small ribbon helps to break the edge of the chin and the dress and allows the eye to construct something which isn't painted. The value of the pink of the chin and the white of the dress are so closely matched as to almost blend into one. This effect is due to the blooming brightness of light that the eye sees as it overwhelmed by a bright white light in sunlight - those areas next to the brightness lose definition. Great observed effect. I look at the ruff of her collar which she is profiled on and just marvel at the virtuosity of handling here. All the edges are blurred just the right amount.
Perhaps you missed how she lies within the foliage and disappears almost as if she is covered by a knitted throw. She appears comfortable and seems to be relaxing propped up on pillows as if in her bed or couch. Her hand is prominent though not defined in the original and brings the color of her face across the midline of the painting to connect the two halves. In your version, there are opportunities to build in some variety in the size of the stems and leaves. If you glance at the original, the stems and leaves grow every which way in the foreground but the background are much more upright with the weight of the flower heads granting a gentle and graceful curve to plants near the thinner tops. Its almost as if the foreground plants were disturbed to get his model in position and the background is where no one has stepped yet.
This method of painting has its advantages and disadvantages like any other method. It is very easy to fall into certain traps, such as using the same brush stroke, losing the turning of the forms, and destroying the atmosphere. Looking to incorporating the changing color and seeing opportunities for color to give this atmosphere was the challenge for Monet during this time. He had really struggled trying to figure it out according to his surviving letters. If you really blow up the original and study the brushstrokes, color, and values he used during this time, you can see how much of these paintings informed his later works particularly his water lilly series.