Claude Monet is my favourite artist. By a distance.
In my eyes a real artist is someone who can paint or draw very well, and then can add something of their own in order to make a unique piece of art. This is why I have no time for so-called artists who can only splatter-paint, and then call it art. The results may occasionally be pleasing, but it is through luck rather than skill. If Monet were to splatter-paint then I would take more notice. He has earned a legitimacy through real art.
The Magpie, an 1869 winter scene, may not be one of his most famous nor familiar works but it is one which displays all his skill. The house looks like his house in Giverney. I visited it a few years ago and I reckon it is the back view, a little up the hill behind the house. From the shadows we see the low-angled winter sun was in front of him when he painted this scene, and the traces of pink tints in the snow suggest the sun is about to set. But most of all I like the subject of the painting, the magpie, small and off-centre.
Did Monet simply paint the scene and a magpie happened to be there, or did he deliberately build the piece around the magpie? Whatever way magpies don’t stay in the same place for long, so Monet must have made quite a quick sketch (or sketches) of the magpie.
Maybe the magpie wasn’t there at all and Monet just painted it in. There is no way of telling, but the result is sublime.