Monet, Autumn Effect at Argenteuil, 1873. Oil on canvas, 55 x 74.5 cm. P.1932.SC.274.

The subject matter of this painting is in many ways mundane: Monet depicted the small town of Argenteuil seen from a branch of the river Seine. The thick blue stripe running horizontally marks the main stream of the river. Behind it are houses and a church spire whose verticality is echoed by the white chimney of a factory. The smoke it emits merges into the clouds above.

However, Monet’s focus is less on the modern city than the effects of the seasons, the reflections on the water, and the array of colours in the trees – from orange and pink to purple and green – , all evidence of his careful observation of fleeting moments.