ImpModEve Lot 38 Pissarro_Lot 37 Monet
Claude Monet (1840-1926)
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EN ROUTE TO IMPRESSIONISM: MONET AND PISSARRO IN LOUVECIENNES“Nothing could be more interesting than these causeries with their perpetual clash of opinions. They kept our wits sharpened, they encouraged us with stores of enthusiasm that for weeks and weeks kept us up, until the final shaping of the idea was accomplished. From them we emerged with a firmer will, with our thoughts clearer and more distinct.”So recalled Monet, late in life, of the lively Thursday evening gatherings at the Café Guerbois in Paris during the late 1860s, which attracted every young artist determined to defy Salon norms and forge a revolutionary modern mode of painting. Manet–the enfant terrible of the art world at this moment of sea-change–was their intellectual leader. Degas, Renoir, Sisley, Bazille, and Fantin-Latour were regulars; Monet, Pissarro, and Cézanne came whenever they were in Paris. “They found there kindred spirits...and the assurance that ridicule or rejection were powerless against the determination to carry on,” John Rewald has written about this loose collective, known as the Batignolles group after the address of the café. “Together the friends constituted a movement; and in the end success could not be denied them” (The History of Impressionism, New York, 1961, p. 202).One of the most hotly debated topics at the Café Guerbois was plein-air painting. Manet, Degas, and Fantin staunchly opposed it, arguing for traditional studio work; Monet, Pissarro, and Sisley, the landscapists in the group, were strongly in favor, and Renoir vacillated. In the summer of 1869, the latter contingent descended on the towns of Louveciennes and Bougival in the Seine valley west of Paris. For the next year–in one of the greatest collaborative experiments in the history of modern art, on par with Picasso and Braque’s joint invention of Cubism–they worked together, side-by-side, to hone their shared plein-air language. “If Impressionism was an urban art form, born around the tables of the Café Guerbois in Paris,” Richard Brettell has written, “it was in the suburban countryside west of the capital that the notions of modern painting discussed in Paris were first tested” (A Day in the Country: Impressionism and the French Landscape, exh. cat., Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1984, p. 79).The extraordinary pair of landscapes offered here, by Monet and Pissarro, bear witness to this transformative period in painting. Both canvases were produced at Louveciennes, within a stone’s throw of Pissarro’s house, during an extended visit that Monet made to work alongside his friend in early 1870. Monet, ten years Pissarro’s junior and always a bit more brash, opted to paint the unassuming suburban landscape on a snowy day under a fiery sunset sky; Pissarro, more understated if no less progressive, rendered instead the exquisitely subtle effects of an overcast afternoon on the threshold of spring. Brimming with brio and conviction, both artists laid down pigment in loose, gestural strokes that seem to capture a new spontaneity of vision in front of nature.By this time, the Batignolles landscapists had fully consolidated the formal means and expressive ends of Impressionism, as it would come to be known. All they needed now were the confidence and capital to reject the Salon system and head out on their own, an idea that had already gained traction at the Café Guerbois. “Each year we will rent a large studio where we will exhibit our works in as large a number as we wish,” wrote Bazille in 1869. “With these people, and Monet, the best of all of them, we are certain of success” (quoted in The New Painting: Impressionism 1874-1886, exh. cat., Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 1986, p. 93).Before these plans could reach fruition, however, disaster struck. Goaded on by rumors of Prussian expansionist ambitions, the French Parliament declared war against Prussia on 19 July 1870. The response was swift, decisive, and utterly disastrous for France. The well-oiled Prussian military machine invaded France three days later and went on to overwhelm one opposing army after another, culminating in the capture of Napoleon III in early September. Prussian troops then marched on Paris, which they held under siege until late January, when the provisional government–faced with the prospect of rampant starvation in the capital–capitulated. Under the terms of the peace, the German states were unified under the Prussian king and the coveted territory of Alsace-Lorraine went to the victors.When the war broke out, Monet was on holiday with his wife and son at the seaside resort of Trouville; they scrambled to acquire passports and joined the boatloads of refugees fleeing for England via Le Havre as the conflict intensified. Pissarro and his family remained at Louveciennes through early September, when Prussian troops overran the town and requisitioned their house. Leaving behind everything they owned, they took refuge at a friend’s farm in Montfoucault, before following Monet to London in early December. Renoir was mobilized into a cavalry division, and Manet and Degas joined the National Guard to defend Paris during the siege; all of them emerged shell-shocked but physically unharmed. Bazille, who enlisted in a regiment of Zouaves, was less fortunate; he died on the battlefield on November 28th, at the age of twenty-eight.The année terrible, as Victor Hugo called it, did not end with the humiliating Armistice of January 1871. Shortly after it was signed, angry revolutionaries and members of the National Guard declared themselves the legitimate rulers of France, setting the stage for a civil war. The Commune, as it was called, held power for two months before the French army quelled the insurrection in an unimaginably bloody week of fratricide and destruction that ended in late May.This sequence of catastrophic events left an indelible mark on the national consciousness. It also provided the catalyst that Monet and his colleagues needed to take the final leap to a wholly modern mode of painting, independent of the entrenched Salon system. By late 1871, all the members of the Batignolles group were back in Paris or nearby. Their homes and studios had been devastated, and loved ones had died; all around them they could see buildings and bridges reduced to rubble, and acres of farmland ruined. No longer could they delay; the time had come for action. A collective spirit of resurgence seized the nation, and the young artists felt it as keenly as anyone. “What makes these bad memories more fleeting for me is that I haven’t stopped working for an instant,” Zola wrote to Cézanne. “Never have I had more hope or a greater desire to work, for Paris is born again” (quoted in P.H. Tucker, Monet: Life and Art, New York, 1995, p. 54).The rest of the story has been told time and again. Renoir made two more efforts, in 1872 and 1873, to show his work at the Salon, both of which met with failure. Monet, Pissarro, Sisley, and Degas, in contrast, submitted nothing to the jury after the war, focusing instead on organizing an independent association of artists who would exhibit publicly without the sanction of the state. The “Société Anonyme Cooperative des Artistes, Peintres, Sculpteurs, Graveurs, etc.” was officially constituted in December of 1873. When the group held their first show the following April, a hostile critic–one of many–mocked them as the Impressionists, taking his cue from the title of Monet’s Impression, soleil levant. The name stuck, and history was made.PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION
Claude Monet (1840-1926)

Route à Louveciennes, neige fondante, soleil couchant

Claude Monet (1840-1926)
Route à Louveciennes, neige fondante, soleil couchant
signed 'Claude Monet' (lower right)
oil on canvas
16 1/8 x 21 3/8 in. (41 x 54.2 cm.)
Painted in Louveciennes, circa 1869-1870
(possibly) Michel Lévy, Paris (acquired from the artist, 1873).
B. Mancini, Paris.
Boussod, Valadon et Cie., Paris (1888).
Gustave Goupy, Paris (1888); sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 30 March 1898, lot 27.
Private collection, France.
The Lefevre Gallery (Alex. Reid & Lefevre, Ltd.), London.
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 21 August 1978.
J.A., "Beaux-Arts: Exposition à la galerie Georges Petit" in Art et critique, 29 June 1889, p. 76.
D. Wildenstein, Monet, Biographie et catalogue raisonné, Lausanne, 1974, vol. I, p. 184, no. 148 (illustrated).
D. Wildenstein, Claude Monet: Catalogue raisonné, Lausanne, 1991, vol. V, p. 24, no. 148.
R. Gordon and A. Forge, Monet, New York, 1983, p. 291, no. 128 (illustrated).
D. Wildenstein, Monet: Catalogue raisonné, Cologne, 1996, vol. II, p. 71, no. 148 (illustrated, p. 70).
J. Pissarro and C. Durand-Ruel Snollaerts, Pissarro: Catalogue critique des peintures, Paris, 2005, vol. II, p. 180 (illustrated).
Paris, Galerie Georges Petit, Claude Monet, A. Rodin, 1889, p. 28, no. 8 (titled Route de Louveciennes).
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, September 1985-March 1986 (on extended loan).
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Monet to Matisse: French Art in Southern California Collections, June-August 1991, p. 50 (illustrated in color).
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, January 1993-December 1994 (on extended loan).
Washington, D.C., The Phillips Collection and The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Impressionists in Winter: Effets de neige, September 1998-May 1999, p. 91 (illustrated in color).
Torino, Palazzina della Promotrice delle Belle Arti, Gli impressionisti e la neve, November 2004-April 2005.
Los Angeles, The J. Paul Getty Museum, May 1999-May 2008 (on extended loan).

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Jessica Fertig
Jessica Fertig

Lot Essay

In early December 1869, as temperatures dipped below freezing in the Seine valley, Monet arrived for an extended visit at Pissarro’s home in Louveciennes, a short distance west of Bougival, where he had settled with his future wife Camille and their young son Jean in June. His financial worries that year had been legion–at one point, he wrote to Bazille, he had no bread, no wine, no light, and no paint–and he may have hoped to pool resources with Pissarro. He had been bitterly disappointed, moreover, when both of his submissions to the 1869 Salon were rejected, and he sought solace and strength in the company of like-minded artists. During the late summer, he and Renoir had painted together at the popular bathing and boating establishment La Grenouillère, breaking new ground in the rendering of reflected light and other plein-air effects. Now, with Renoir back in Paris, he and Pissarro would take their turn working side-by-side, continuing to forge the revolutionary visual language that would come to be known as Impressionism.
Shortly after Monet’s arrival at the Pissarro residence–a large yellow house called the Maison Retrou, located at 22, route de Versailles, near the center of Louveciennes–a heavy snowfall descended upon Paris and its western suburbs. “We are in the heart of winter,” Le Journal Illustré could report by December 12th. “Since last week the thermometer has shown us that happy skaters may soon take to the lake. And the snow, the first to fall this winter, white, silent and slow, has covered Paris in a brilliant shroud” (quoted in exh. cat., op. cit., 1998, p. 222). Almost as soon as the storm had subsided, Monet and Pissarro ventured out-of-doors to confront the heady challenge of capturing the snowy effects.
Judging from the amount of snow on the ground, the present view is the second in a pair of dazzling effets de neige that Monet painted in the ensuing days, setting up his easel on the route de Versailles right in front of Pissarro’s house. The first of the two canvases (Wildenstein, no. 147) shows the road looking north-east toward the route de Saint-Germain, with the Marly aqueduct in the distance. The Maison Retrou is the building with dormer windows on the left in the foreground; on the opposite side of the street is the house where the local blacksmith Pierre Huet lived. Pissarro painted the snowy route de Versailles from approximately the same vantage point at least three times during Monet’s visit, the two artists setting up their easels nearly side-by-side (Pissarro and Durand-Ruel Snollaerts, nos. 138-139 and 142). Monet chose to render the vista at midday under a clear blue sky; the sun has melted most of the snow on the left side of the street, but an abundant amount remains in the road itself and to the right.
Monet painted the present canvas a few days later when even more of the snow had melted, creating fresh visual effects. It was late afternoon when he went outside to paint, and he turned to face in the opposite direction, looking south-west along the route de Versailles into the gloriously setting sun. Pissarro’s house is now to the right of the road in the very foreground, cropped by the edge of the canvas; just beyond it is a cluster of buildings known as the Maison des Pages du Roy, constructed under Louis XIV to board the royal pages when the king was at the nearby Château de Marly. Pissarro also painted the route de Versailles looking in this direction during Monet’s visit, but he set up his easel slightly further south, drawing closer to the château grounds (Pissarro and Durand-Ruel Snollaerts, nos. 141-142). He selected a vantage point very similar to Monet’s, though, for a springtime view (no. 153), and he reprised it under snow in 1871, when he returned to Louveciennes after the Franco-Prussian War (no. 213, the Maison des Pages replaced with a stand of firs).
Unlike Pissarro, whose snow scenes from Louveciennes represent his very first foray into winter painting, Monet had braved the cold as early as 1865 to capture the uniquely subtle and stunning effects of the season (see Wildenstein, no. 50). He painted a sequence of four snowscapes at Honfleur in the winter of 1867 (Wildenstein, nos. 79-82), attracting surprise and admiration from a local journalist who came across him at the motif, bundled up in three overcoats, a foot warmer at the base of his easel. In early 1869, shortly before leaving the Normandy coast for the Seine valley, he painted an even more ambitious and virtuoso snow scene, the brilliant white Magpie, which was one of the paintings that the unadventurous Salon jury rejected that spring (Wildenstein, no. 133). “I find the winter perhaps more agreeable than the summer, and naturally I am working all the time,” he wrote to Bazille. And then presciently: “I believe that this year I am going to do some serious things” (ibid., p. 84).
Time did not diminish Monet’s enthusiasm for winter work, which he faced with hardiness and good humor. “I painted today in the snow, which falls endlessly,” he wrote to Gustave Geffroy in 1896 from Norway, which he had chosen over Venice for a major painting campaign. “You would have laughed if you could have seen me completely white, with icicles hanging from my beard like stalactites” (ibid., p. 35).
The present painting stands out among Monet’s many winter scenes, some of them nearly monochrome, for the extraordinary vibrancy of its palette. The sky is filled with banks of rosy-pink cloud, underneath which hints of bright blue are evident. At the horizon line, the sunset intensifies to blazing hues of yellow and orange, which reflect against the slush that is melting in the route de Versailles. The vivid colors of the sky and the roadway contrast with the dark brown tones of houses and trees, plunged into dusky shadow as the sun dips low. Most striking of all, Monet has represented the patchy snow with broad dabs of pure, unmixed white in striking contrast against the dark ground underneath, which lead the viewer’s eye toward the horizon line in the far distance. Where snow still lingers on the rooftops, it is rendered with single, economical strokes of white so fresh and spontaneous that one can easily imagine Monet adding them as a bravura finishing touch, just before declaring the painting complete.
Unlike many of Monet’s other perspective road views, this brilliant sunset scene does not include any figures along the village lane. The winter day grows late, and townspeople have retreated indoors for the evening; the artist is apparently alone in front of his motif. To paint his first view of the route de Versailles, a lively midday tableau, Monet had set up his easel in the middle of the road, which appears to rush away like an arrow, the perspectival axes meeting at a single vanishing point dead ahead. For the present composition, in contrast, the artist positioned himself alongside the road and painted it receding into the distance at a diagonal, slowing the pace at which the viewer’s eye moves through the scene. The resulting impression of quiet domesticity contrasts with the extravagant natural effects of sunset, which give the painting its abiding visual drama.
Monet remained at Bougival until July 1870, continuing to visit frequently with Pissarro. In spring, he received word that his two submissions to the Salon–a boldly experimental canvas from La Grenouillère and a much more conventional Déjeuner–had again been rejected (Wildenstein, nos. 132 and 136). This stinging rebuff confirmed to Monet that he should expect nothing more from official channels and finally convinced him that an alternative to the Salon was necessary, an idea that he and Bazille had bandied about since 1867. In the meantime, his finances continued to worsen. “This fatal refusal has taken the bread out of my mouth,” he lamented to Arsène Houssaye, the editor of L’Artiste (quoted in P.H. Tucker, Claude Monet: Life and Art, New York, 1995, p. 41). Before leaving the Seine valley to summer at Trouville, Monet left a cache of paintings with Pissarro at Louveciennes, fearing that they would be seized by creditors.
The next year, however, brought an unexpected windfall. In the fall of 1870, Monet, Camille (by then Madame Monet), and Jean took refuge in London to escape the Franco-Prussian war. The Pissarro and Sisley families did the same, while Renoir and Bazille, both unmarried, were mobilized; the latter was tragically killed in combat. In London, the painter Daubigny–who had resigned from the Salon jury in protest following Monet’s rejection earlier that year–introduced him to Paul Durand-Ruel, forcefully encouraging the dealer to purchase works from the up-and-coming artist. Durand-Ruel took up the challenge, quickly becoming Monet’s chief conduit for selling pictures.
By the time that Monet settled in Argenteuil in December 1871, his financial woes were–temporarily, at least–a thing of the past. Finally, the painter was in a position to focus on organizing an independent association of artists, which would mount its own unjuried exhibitions. The present painting found a buyer around this time, possibly the publisher Michel Lévy but more likely the fellow painter Henri Michel-Lévy, part of the forward-thinking circle who regularly gathered at the Café Guerbois in Paris. Monet attempted to recruit Michel-Lévy for the “Société Anonyme Cooperative des Artistes” but the latter declined, arguing that the Salon should instead be reformed from within. Monet and his colleagues were undeterred, of course, and the pioneering First Impressionist Exhibition–the touchstone for all such future modernist efforts–opened in Paris in April 1874.

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