Monet 'Houses of Parliament'

A superlative example of the Impressionist style developed by Claude Monet, depicting the world in a way that no camera ever could.

TravelCurious Tip

Vincent Van Gogh did a series of paintings of the Seine — they make a fascinating comparison to Monet’s series, both in style and content

Claude Monet, the famous French Impressionist artist, painted a series of oil paintings of the Houses of Parliament in London over the course of several stays between 1899 and 1901. All the paintings in the series share the same viewpoint overlooking the Thames, but are painted at different times of day and with different weather. The contrasts between them are wonderful.

Although the main residence in his life was in Giverny, Monet and his family had actually lived in England briefly when they sought refuge during the Franco-Prussian war (1870-1871). Monet returned again in the late eighties and stayed with his two artist friends James McNeill Whistler and John Singer Sargent. Both were famous artists in their right and, although they were expatriate Americans, they acted as his guide to the city. Whistler’s fixation on the Thames clearly had an effect on his friend Monet.

Monet always tried to go to London during the winter, when the city sky would be thick with fog and the smoke of coal fires. "Without fog," Monet said, "London would not be a beautiful city. It is the fog that gives it its magnificent breadth.” In this series the ghostly outline of the Parliament buildings emerges from the fog, and its great stone bulk seems strangely weightless. Thousands of coloured patches knit together to give an impression of the density of the air, as sky and river blend seamlessly.

Paintings from this series by Monet are scattered all over the world, but you can see one here in Paris at the Musée d’Orsay. Whether or not you have seen the scene in the flesh, this depiction is triumphant.

Nearby Attractions

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Musee d'Orsay
One of the world's definitive collections of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art, installed in the former Orsay train station.
Van Gogh 'Starry Night Over the Rhone'
This painting is one of the highlights from the Musée d'Orsay’s Van Gogh collection.
Renoir ‘Bal du Moulin de la Galette’
This Renoir work is one of Impressionism's most celebrated masterpieces, depicting romantic bourgeois Paris in the 1870s.
Cézanne 'Card Players'
This peaceful Cézanne painting is one of the Post-Impressionist’s most enduring works.
Rodin 'The Gates of Hell'
The plaster model in the Musée d'Orsay dates from 1917 and was inspired by the famous doors that Ghiberti had made for the baptistery in Florence.
Manet 'The Luncheon on the Grass'
Though a seemingly mundane scene, by placing an anonymous unclothed woman in an everyday setting, Manet re-contextualized the age-old subject and redefined what constitutes fine art, with a hint of irony.

Related Tours

The Musée d'Orsay Highlights: Private Half-Day Walking Tour
Escape the bustle and step into the Golden Age of art in the Musée D’Orsay to enjoy one of the world’s greatest collections of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art. 

On your private tour of the Orsay Museum, you will: 

  • Explore the highlights of the museum, focusing on the best work of the Impressionists;
  • See Van Gogh’s Starry Night, Degas’ Ballerina, Manet’s Luncheon on the Grass, and one of Monet’s Waterlily pieces;
  • Find yourself in front of an other-worldly clock, with stunning vistas over Paris;
  • See the model for the Opera Garnier, designed by Carpeaux;
  • Stand in front of Thomas Couture Les Romains de la Décadence – the museum’s largest painting.
The Louvre may be the most visited museum in Paris, but the Orsay is probably the most enjoyable. Housed in the Gare d’Orsay, and constructed by Victor Laloux for the 1900 World Fair, the Orsay Museum is one of Paris’ most beloved museums, devoted to a huge breadth of art between 1848 and 1914. 

During the tour, your expert guide will help you navigate this huge collection to land you in front of the world-famous pieces housed in the museum. You will see numerous works by Monet, Renoir, Cézanne, Gauguin, and Van Gogh while learning how each generation of artists has influenced the next. 

Explore the most iconic artworks in the world, including Vincent Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night over the Rhone, Renoir’s ‘Bal du Moulin de la Galette’, and Cézanne’s 'Card players', and learn from your knowledgeable guide, about the stories behind these artworks and their creators along the way. 

After your guided tour, feel free to further explore the vast museum and its beautiful work at your own pace. 


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