The Magpie

The Magpie
Artist Claude Monet
Year 1868–1869
Medium Oil on canvas
Location Musée d’Orsay, Paris
Dimensions 35 in × 51 in
89 cm × 130 cm
Famous Paintings by Claude Monet
Impression, Sunrise
The Magpie
Woman with a Parasol
San Giorgio Maggiore at Dusk
Women in the Garden
Snow at Argenteuil
Beach in Pourville
Bridge over a Pond of Water Lilies
Garden at Sainte-Adresse

The Magpie is an impressionistic winter landscape painting by Claude Monet. It was painted in the winter of 1868-1869 near Etretat, Normandy. Monet would eventually paint 140 winter landscapes. The Magpie is his largest winter work at 35 inches by 51 inches in size. The extremely innovative painting was initially rejected from The Salon, the annual official art exhibition of the Academie des Beaux-Arts in Paris, as being too “coarse”. Nonetheless, it was eventually acquired by the Musee d’Orsay on the Left Bank and quickly became one of its most popular paintings.


A pale, snowy landscape in bright afternoon sun with stark shadows stretches across the canvas. The foreground is entirely snow and shadows. In the mid-ground is a wattle fence with a thick layer of snow. On the far left, a magpie perches on a stile that stretches over the fence. In the background is a long, pale tan brick building partly obscured by winter trees. Like many Impressionistic paintings, when viewed from a distance it has an almost photo-realistic quality. Up close the brush strokes and overall design is very soft.

En Plein Air

In the mid-19th century, painting outside in natural light became popular. Monet was introduced to the concept by Eugene Boudin and it quickly became a favorite of the Impressionist painters of the time. Impressionist painting, with its emphasis on color, light, and shadows, is uniquely well-suited to the en plein air technique. Monet and other artists soon began exploring the possibilities of winter scenes using various shades of white. Monet’s use of multiple colors in his shadows soon became a widespread technique within the Impressionist movement.

Critical Reception

Impressionistic paintings such as The Magpie were a radical departure from the structured, precise styles of painting of the 18th and early 19th century. Although The Magpie and related paintings were a critical and financial disaster for Monet at the time, he later went on to be one of the most successful Impressionist painters, both critically and financially.

2 responses to “The Magpie”

  1. Tom Martin says:

    Viewed this painting at an exhibit in Fort Worth. Exceptional rendering of a snow laden scene. Judging by the light, either mid-morning or late afternoon. Upon viewing, I didn’t feel cold; maybe it was a cold day when it was painted, but the sun may have made it more pleasant. Just my personal observation. Great work, especially in the size it is presented.

  2. me says:

    wish i could see it im doing a school presentation on it

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