The only books I've on hand are about impressionism, so let's start there.
To begin, Monet's Japanese Footbridge:
I think one of my favorite parts about analyzing Monet is that he spent such a large amount of his life painting at his home in Giverny, France. We actually get to see him revisit many of his favorite subjects several times over, especially in his paintings of poplars, lilies, haystacks, and the Japanese Footbridge. This footbridge actually stood on his property (though until recently it had fallen to termites), and Monet painted several series of the bridge during his stay at Giverny.
One thing about I've always loved about impressionists is the way they can paint things so differently each time. The two paintings above were painted in 1899, while the bottom two were created over twenty years later, in 1923. I wish I knew Monet a bit better, but I would assume he made a return to Giverny those many years after.
There are some theories as to why Monet's work became more vague so many years later, and I'll go into the main theory when I get to Degas and his dancers. I like to think that he just got better at capturing the essence of his subject - details didn't matter as much as the feeling of the scene.
That's actually one of the points I always make for Impressionism. It's not about detail, it's about motion, essence, and feeling.
Next Week: Degas' Eyes and Dancers