Claude Monet (1840-1926)
La Seine à Argenteuil
signed and dated 'Claude Monet.77.' (lower right)
oil on canvas
23 5/8 x 28 5/8 in. (60 x 72.8 cm.)
Painted in 1877
du Fresnay, Paris (acquired from the artist, October 1877).
Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie., Paris (acquired from the above, 13 June 1894).
Private collection, Paris (by descent from above).
Private collection, France.
Property from a Distinguished French Estate
D. Wildenstein, Claude Monet, biographie et catalogue raisonné, Lausanne, 1974, vol. I, p. 310, no. 452 (illustrated, p. 311).
P.H. Tucker, Monet at Argenteuil, New Haven, 1982, pp. 181-182 (illustrated, fig. 151).
R. Gordon and A. Forge, Monet, New York, 1983, p. 134 (illustrated).
D. Wildenstein, Monet, catalogue raisonné, Cologne, 1996, vol. II, p. 183, no. 452 (illustrated).
Berlin, Paul Cassirer, Ausstellung VIII. Jahrgang, 1905, no. 22.
London, Grafton Galleries, Pictures by Boudin, Manet, Pissarro, Cézanne, Monet, Renoir, Degas, Morisot, Sisley, January-February 1905, no. 128.
Weimar, Grossherzogliches Museum, Claude Monet, April-May 1905, no. 5.
London, Grosvenor Gallery, Art français, June, 1914, no. 42.
Paris, Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie., Tableaux par Claude Monet, January 1928, no. 19.
Paris, Durand-Ruel et Cie., Paysages par C. Monet, C. Pissarro, Renoir et Sisley, January 1933, no. 5.
Paris, Durand-Ruel et Cie., Maîtres des 18e et 19e siècles, May-June 1938, no. 45.
Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Hondred Jaar Fransche Kunst, July-September 1938, no. 179.
Paris, Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie., Claude Monet (1840-1926), May-September 1959, no. 18 (illustrated).
Paris, Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie., Claude Monet, January-March 1970, no. 17 (illustrated).
Tokyo, Seibu Gallery; Kyoto Municipal Museum; and Fukuoaka Cultural Center, Claude Monet, March-July 1973, no. 15 (illustrated).
Paul Hayes Tucker introduces Monet's years in Argenteuil as "a classic phase of Impressionism, a period in which Monet developed a formal vocabulary of heightened color and broken brushwork which he wedded with dynamic compositions and modern subjects. While maintaining his concerns in the 1860s as a modern landscape painter, Monet pursued with even greater vigour the fleeting effects of nature and the vagaries of visual sensation" (P.H. Tucker, op. cit., p. 1).
It was in Argenteuil--located just down the Seine from Saint-Denis, where the river loops for a second time on its course north from Paris to the channel--that Monet spent the greater part of the decade between 1871 to 1878. It was here that many of his greatest Impressionist canvases were painted. Argenteuil was a picturesque suburban town, well known in the 19th century as an agréable petite ville, which had become, by the mid 1850s, a fashionable place for Sunday outings and yachting, a popular pastime for middle-class Parisians more used to city life. "Stretching along the right bank of the river on a site that gradually slopes up to meet a series of rolling hills to the north, the gracious little town was criss-crossed by numerous winding streets, encircled by fields and promenades, and crowned by the spire of the parish church. It was bordered on the south by the river and linked to the village of Gennevilliers and to Paris by two bridges, one for coaches and pedestrians and another for the railroad" (ibid., p. 9).
Since his first summer in Argenteuil in 1872, Monet was deeply inspired by the perspective of the tree-lined promenades on the banks of the Seine (fig. 1). Monet painted four views of the promenade looking downstream, with the Île Marante on the left and on the right a house with a turret flanked by two factory chimneys (Wildenstein nos. 221-224). In these works the turreted house and the chimneys were central to the composition, the viewer's eye drawn in by the line of trees and the sweep of the river (fig. 2). It is perhaps fitting that during his last summer in Argenteuil, Monet returned to the same spot to paint the scene again. Monet painted four views (W. 450-451, 453 and the present work) but this time the compositions differed considerably from the early depictions.
The key difference in the 1877 paintings of the promenade is the tangle of flowers and undergrowth in the foreground, which as in the present work, almost divide the composition in half. The jumble of roses bobbing on a sea of darkened stems are reminiscent of the flowers found in Monet's Argenteuil garden. Indeed, in his commentary on Argenteuil, la berge en fleurs (fig. 3), Paul Tucker muses on the purpose of this 'garden' in a public arena: "the Seine flows out from behind the twisting stems, while the bank climbs abruptly on the right. What we appear to be seeing is the junction of two separate worlds--one in which we stand, in front of a screen of flowers, the other containing the town beyond, with its many offerings and continued mystique. In the latter realm Monet links the top of the bank with the bottom edge of the houses and factories in the background, aligning them as well with the woods on the Île de Marante. The foreground thicket asserts itself as the boldest reality. In addition to its scale and immediacy, it is the most powerfully painted element in the view. Constructed from innumerable brush strokes, its impassioned marks seem to bear witness to Monet's emotional state as well as to his painterly bravura. The brush blots, swirls, skips, and curls across the surface with no apparent order or forethought. This freedom, which contrasts with the evenly rendered background, is precisely what one would expect from a contemporary artist bent on renovating tradition" (P.H. Tucker, exh. cat., The Impressionists at Argenteuil, Washington, 2000, p. 174).
Of the four works painted in 1877 of this view, La Seine à Argenteuil will be the freshest to the market having been in a private collection since the 1890s and never before offered at auction. The painting was purchased directly from Monet, the year it was painted, by Monsieur du Fresnay, who also owned Monet's Peupliers, près d'Argenteuil of 1875 (Wildenstein no. 378), now in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Du Fresnay kept the present work for seventeen years before selling both La Seine à Argenteuil and Peupliers, près d'Argenteuil to Durand-Ruel in 1894. After which, La Seine à Argenteuil entered a private collection where it has remained to the present day.
(fig. 1) Photograph of the Petit Gennevilliers promenade, late 19th century.
(fig. 2) Claude Monet, La Promenade d'Argenteuil, 1872. National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., Alisa Mellon Bruce Collection.
(fig. 3) Claude Monet, Argenteuil, la berge en fleurs, 1877. Private collection.