Coucher de Soleil sur l'Etang, 1874 (Sunset on the Lake)
Signed and dated at bottom right: Daubigny 1874
The day is drawing to a close. The sun, already low in the sky, is disappearing behind a row of trees. Only a few rays of sunlight are still shining through the foliage, illuminating it from behind. The patch of radiant colours at the centre of the composition gives us an inkling of just how powerful they are. The darkness engulfing the foreground presages the fast approaching night, though here and there it is broken by glints of light on the water, captured hastily but with great sensitivity by the artist. Clearly it was not the motif as such that mattered him, but rather his sensory impressions of that one instant. The view he chose to paint and the fast diminishing daylight meant that to convey the immediacy of the seen moment he had to work fast and with rapid brushstrokes. It is this spirit in the works of Daubigny that makes for such a contrast with the forces dominant in the art of the past, and that accounts for the powerful magnetism his art exerted on the generation of Impressionists who came after him.