In the muted palette of the emerging dawn, Claude Monet portrayed the industrial port of Le Havre on the northern coast of France. The brilliant orange of the rising sun glimmers amid the damp air and dances on the gentle rippling water, lighting up its iridescent blues and greens. Barely discernible through a cool haze, pack boats on the left billow smoke from their stacks. Painted during the spring of 1873 as the country struggled to rebuild following the Franco-Prussian war, this Sunrise might also metaphorically suggest a new day dawning in France.
Sunrise exemplifies Monet's plein air , or "outdoor," approach to painting. The informal and spontaneous brushstrokes establish this picture as one of the first works, along with the famous Impression: Sunrise at the Marmottan Museum in Paris, in the Impressionist style that was to make him famous. The ephemeral play of light, water, and air would remain Monet's subject for the rest of his career.