My favourite painting: Kipper Williams

'I’ve always been fascinated by the different ways artists have depicted snow.'

The Magpie, 1868–69, by Claude Monet (1840–1926), 35in by 51in, Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France

Kipper Williams says:

I’ve always been fascinated by the different ways artists have depicted snow. I love the winter scenes in Giles cartoon annuals, in which a blanket of white serves as a backdrop for his endlessly inventive visual jokes. A century earlier, Claude Monet painted The Magpie, one of his atmospheric Normandy snowscapes. The scene reminds me of the excitement I used to feel crunching across the field at the back of my Cheshire home the morning after a heavy snowfall. Monet’s field was hundreds of miles away, but the magical world he created whisks me back to my childhood.

Kipper Williams is a cartoonist. His new book, All in Tents and Porpoises: The Best of Kipper Williams, was published at the end of last year.

John McEwen comments on The Magpie:

Monet’s formative artistic influence in Le Havre was the local painter Eugène Boudin (1826–98). Outdoor oil painting was facilitated by the invention of the metal paint tube and Boudin was an ardent advocate. their painting trips taught Monet ‘to understand nature’ and learn ‘to love it passionately’.

In Paris, where he studied briefly with the academic painter Gleyre, he found fellow student enthusiasts for pictures of landscape and daily life in Renoir, Sisley and the rich Bazille. Bazille and an aunt augmented his inadequate allowance from home— Monet’s father, a wholesale grocer, deplored his son’s career choice.

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The Salon was the key to creative success, but, as Monet’s artistic interests were opposed to convention, his submissions were rarely accepted. Crisis came when Camille Doncieux, his young model and mistress, gave birth to their son Jean. He survived a despairing jump from a bridge into the Seine.

His first patron, Louis Gaudibert, a shipbuilder, came to the family’s rescue by helping with the rent of a cottage at Etretat, near Le Havre. There, Monet painted The Magpie, the largest of his snowscapes, a subject reintroduced since 1856 by Gustave Courbet, whose revolutionary gusto and taste for realism were an inspiration to the young Impressionists. Courbet and Bazille were Jean’s godfathers.

From Etretat, Monet wrote to Bazille: ‘I’m very happy, very delighted… I go out into the country which is so lovely here that I perhaps find it even more agreeable in winter than in summer. And then in the evening, dear fellow, I come home to my little cottage to find a good fire and a dear little family. If only you could see how sweet your godson is.’