The central character, brighter by contrast to the other three, stares into the middle distance. Perhaps she is waiting for a prospective client, sizing one up, or signalling her availability. Her gesture with her finger is, Clayton suggests, a sexual signal suggesting fellatio. (On the other she might just be biting off a bit of annoying nail whilst eyeing up a prospect...)
As observers our view is complex. Can we see the reflection of the street in the glass of the cafe window, behind the girl, as though Degas is intimating that the bright lights and scurrying figures of bourgeois Parisian night life are merely illusions in constant flux? Or are we in the cafe itself, looking out onto the terrace and street?
The sun is set against the dawn, the orange color against the gray and the vibrant force of the sun against its motionless surroundings. To many spectators, the sun undulates or pulsates slightly. Why is this so? The sun is nearly the same luminance as the grayish clouds. Notice how the sun nearly disappears if you remove the color. (Click painting to reset.) This lack of contrast explains the painting's eerie quality.
The sun is perceived differently is different parts of our mind. To the more primitive subdivisions of our brain, the sun is nearly invisible. But to the primate subdivision, the sun appears normal. Thus, there is an inconsistency between our perception of the sun in the primitive and primate portions of our brain. The sun is poorly defined and ambiguous to the portion of our brain that carries information about position and movement.
If Monet had painted the sun brighter than the clouds (as indeed it is), the painting might be less interesting. If you artificially make the sun brighter or darker (as it is in reality), the primitive brain sees it better. But does that make the painting better or worse?
Throughout the years, Claude Monet's Impression, Sunrise has been celebrated as the quintessential symbol of the Impressionist Movement. This renowned work of art which illustrates a view of the port of Le Havre in north-western France is considered to be one of Monet's "most poetic expressions" of his engagement with France's revitalization efforts after the Franco-Prussian War. Unlike other artworks of the time, the subject matter and specific painting techniques evident in Impression, Sunrise seek to transcribe the feelings initiated by a scene rather than simply rendering the details of a particular landscape. This act of expressing an individual's perception of nature was a key characteristic and goal of Impressionist art, and is a common motif found in Monet's paintings. While Impression, Sunrise and Monet's artistic technique fell under harsh criticism at their outset, Monet's masterpiece gave birth to a new movement and created a revolution in the world of art.