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Claude Monet (1840-1926)
VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 1… Read more PROPERTY FORMERLY IN THE COLLECTION OF HENRY S. HOWE, BOSTON
Claude Monet (1840-1926)

Vue de Vétheuil

Claude Monet (1840-1926)
Vue de Vétheuil
signed 'Claude Monet' (lower right)
oil on canvas
19¾ x 29½ in. (50.2 x 75 cm.)
Painted circa 1880
Galerie Durand-Ruel, Paris, by whom acquired from the artist in December 1881.
Henry S. Howe, Boston, by whom acquired from the above in 1904, and thence by descent to the present owners.
M. de Fels, La vie de Claude Monet, Paris, 1929, p. 235.
D. Wildenstein, Claude Monet: biographie et catalogue raisonné, vol. I, Lausanne, 1974, no. 602, p. 372 (illustrated p. 373).
D. Wildenstein, Claude Monet: catalogue raisonné, vol. II, Cologne, 1996, no. 602, p. 231 (illustrated p. 232).
New York, Durand-Ruel Gallery, Monet, January 1895, no. 11.
Boston, St Botolph Club, Monet, February 1895, no. 12.
New York, Durand-Ruel Gallery, Monet, February 1902, no. 4.
Boston, Copley Hall, Monet-Rodin, March 1905, no. 31.
Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, Monet, August 1911, no. 34-2.
Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, Claude Monet, Memorial Exhibition, 1927, no. 55.
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Lot Essay

The present painting is an exciting rediscovery. Vue de Vétheuil was bought by the pioneering Boston collector Henry S. Howe from Monet's dealers Galerie Durand-Ruel in 1904 and it has remained in Howe's family to this day. Unseen in public for nearly a century, the present work belongs to an important series that Monet made depicting the Seine at Vétheuil, where he lived and worked between 1878 and 1881.

In 1878, beset with financial difficulties, Monet decided to move from Argenteuil further down the Seine valley to Vétheuil, a medieval town located on the Seine about 28 miles northwest of Paris. He and his family, along with Alice and Ernest Hoschedé and their family, shared a house on the river, and Monet would often take a boat out to paint. Monet tirelessly explored this area for the three years he lived there, depicting scenes in all seasons. His works of these years, while less well known than those of the early 1870s or his later series, were pivotal to Monet's life and career.

Monet was at this point the acknowledged leader of the Impressionists and had been hailed by critics such as Emile Zola and Georges Rivière. It was Monet's Impression, soleil levant, 1873 (Wildenstein, no. 263; Paris, Musée Marmottan-Monet), shown at the first Impressionist exhibition, that provided a name for the group; the critic Louis Leroy famously wrote that this "impression" was less finished than half-manufactured wallpaper. In the late 1860s and early 1870s, Monet had painted scenes of yachting, promenading, and residential gardens at Argenteuil and Paris. He was primarily devoted to painting figures within contemporary settings, such as in Le banc, 1873 (Wildenstein, no. 281; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York). Immediately prior to his move to Vétheuil, he painted numerous scenes in Paris - the Gare Saint-Lazare, the Parc Monceau, and the Rue Saint-Denis and Rue Montorgueil - but these paintings were the last time he would depict life in the French capital. Instead, he began to concentrate more and more on landscape. Carole McNamara writes, "Even among his landscape paintings there was a subtle change in emphasis. No longer did they show suburban promenades as they did at Argenteuil; the landscapes become more rural, with the human aspect reduced and occasionally totally removed as Monet looked back to the earlier Barbizon painting in which the viewer is alone in the rural landscape" (in Monet at Vétheuil: The Turning Point, exh. cat., University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor, 1998, p. 67).

The years that Monet spent at Vétheuil represent a watershed in his career - 'a decisive moment of personal and artistic reassessment' and 'the most momentous change in the career of the most revolutionary Impressionist' (C. Stuckey et al., Monet at Vétheuil: The Turning Point, exh. cat. University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor, 1998, pp. 13 and 41). Following his move to Vétheuil, Monet entirely abandoned the contemporary themes that had dominated his earlier oeuvre and began to focus instead on the depiction of fugitive aspects of nature, employing a nascent serial technique that laid the groundwork for his most important later production. With their sensitive description of the changing effects of light on water, the views of the Seine at Vétheul indeed presage the last great series of Monet's career: the waterlilies at Giverny.

At the time that Monet moved to Vétheuil, it was an idyllic, agrarian hamlet of just a few hundred inhabitants. About sixty kilometers northwest of Paris, the town was splendidly situated on a hill overlooking a gentle bend in the Seine. Its major landmark was the twelfth-century church of Notre-Dame, which occupied a commanding position in the heart of the village. With neither bridges nor rail station and only minimal industry, Vétheuil showed little evidence of modernity, which was making major inroads at the time elsewhere in the vicinity of Paris. Shortly after settling at Vétheuil in 1878, the artist described the town in a letter to Eugéne Maurer as 'a ravishing spot from which I should be able to extract some things that aren't bad' (quoted in M. Clarke and R. Thomson, Monet: The Seine and the Sea, Edinburgh, 2003, p. 17).

The present work was painted from the artist's bâteau atelier, a partially covered boat that he had outfitted for use as a studio. To paint the present scene, Monet anchored the craft northwest of Vétheuil, facing upstream toward the town. The left side of the canvas shows the bank of the Seine, lined with leafless poplars; on the right lay the Ile de Bouche, one of several slender spits of land that divide this stretch of the river. The two land masses frame the light-dappled water that spills into the foreground, its rippled surface reflecting the dense cumulus clouds and slate-blue sky. In the distance stand the clock tower of the church of Notre-Dame and the twin turrets of the neo-Renaissance villa 'Les Tourelles', flanked on either side by clusters of quaint, whitewashed houses.

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