Claude Monet's pastels, which were long overshadowed by his paintings, reflect his Impressionist approach as regards subject and design. The artist valued greatly the qualities of the pastel technique, which combines drawing and painting - not so much as a way of preparing the composition of his plein-air painting, but rather in terms of stylistic sketches in order to study the corresponding forms of expression.
Pastels, and the opportunities they offered for coloured design, were very popular in France, especially in the late nineteenth century - as they had previously been during the late eighteenth century. Their consistency and appearance differ essentially from other drawing materials and techniques. The dry pastel crayons are made by compressing a 'paste' of coloured pigments and water-soluble binding agents. The colours, available in a wide variety of shades, get their typical gentle character through the addition of white chalk dust. The qualities of pastels enable the artist to model and blur the colours to create soft, painterly transitions. With their charming, velvet-like surface effect, the colours are only loosely attached to the surface of the paper and therefore react sensitively to every knock.
In his 'Winter Landscape with Evening Sky', Monet evokes a fleeting sense of the coldest season of the year, but without naturalistically drawn details. The artist may have encountered this mood in many places in the Seine region. Under an evening sky tinged with pink, the mist is settling across the trees rising up in the background. Horizontal, broken lines of pink and light blue follow the expanse of the sky; a handful of clouds are outlined in pale yellow; and specks of dark pink soften the transition to the tops of the trees, which are depicted with vertical lines and loops in light and dark grey. A sense of depth is created by the elongated dark zone, a greyish-green embankment bordering the snow-covered meadow in front of it. Green patches on the ground and on the linearly sketched lines of the bushes enable us to make out the still frozen and partly budding vegetation.
This pastel remains a very rare example in German museums of Monet's skills in this technique. This work and the painting 'Le déjeuner' (The Luncheon) (1868) were acquired for the Frankfurt collection under the direction of Georg Swarzenski in 1910, during Monet's lifetime and at a time when he had already achieved fame. The museum had already been displaying another of his paintings, 'Houses by the Water (Zaandam)' (1871/72), since 1904.