Charing Cross Bridge, 1899
Oil on canvas, 64.8 x 80.6 cm
Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection on loan to Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid
Monet's series of paintings of views of the River Thames was concentrated in the years between 1899 and 1904. On three occasions Monet returned to the Savoy Hotel, and from his high vantage-point there, executed views of both Waterloo and Charing Cross Bridge. His friend, the art critic Gustave Geffroy, recalled visiting Monet with Clemenceau in 1900: "Several times we saw him set up on the balcony of his room, overlooking the Thames-Charing Cross Bridge on his right, Waterloo Bridge on his left [...] In front of us the Thames rolled its waves, almost invisible in the fog. A boat passed like a ghost. The bridges were barely discernible in that space, and on them an all-but-imperceptible movement gave life to the mist's opacity; trains passing each other on Charing Cross Bridge, buses streaming across Waterloo Bridge, wafts of smoke that soon disappeared into the thick and livid vastness. It was an awe-inspiring, solemn, and gloomy spectacle [...] One could almost believe that everything was about to vanish, disappear into that colourless obscurity."
In the present painting, the fog-covered Thames is seen on a late winter's afternoon, barges slowly move upstream, with the hazy silhouette of the Houses of Parliament barely visible in the fading light of the setting sun.
During the three winters that Monet worked in London (1899 to 1901), he is said to have completed only twelve views of the Thames on the spot. Virtually all Monet's paintings in the series were worked upon in the studio, and he became less interested in topographical accuracy and more prone to emphasise atmospheric conditions. For example, he eliminated Cleopatra's Needle from the view of Charing Cross Bridge.
In the following photograph you can see a similar view of Charing Cross with the mist depicted by Monet in the present painting:
The following site has more information on the Charing Cross bridge:
Charing Cross is the setting for some episodes in Charles Dickens’s novel “David