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Claude Monet (1840-1926)
The Master of Giverny by Sylvie Patin Senior Curator Emeritus at the Musée d’Orsay, Paris Monet died at the age of eighty-six, leaving a copious collection comprising more than two thousand canvases. Many of his works are housed in French museums and in other institutions around the world. It is therefore extremely rare for a collection dedicated to the painter to be offered for public sale, an exceptional event which is happening at Christie’s today. Besides, the provenance of all the lots included in this catalogue can be traced directly back to the artist himself, that is to say through his second son, Michel Monet, who bequeathed his father’s house and gardens at Giverny to the Académie des Beaux-Arts. Hence, the unique world of Giverny created by the artist is at the heart of this sale which evokes its atmosphere in a quite amazing way. Two canvases by Monet proposed in this sale, painted during the 1880s present two characteristic themes of the landscapes the artist loved and prefigure the works he created in series, culminating in his famous Haystacks, Poplars and Cathedrals series of the 1890s. The painter was striving to capture his subject on accurate depiction of light in its changing qualities (often accentuating the effects of the passage of time) forming a succession of versions. Falaises des Petites-Dalles (1884) also expresses the passion Monet felt for the sea, the coast of Normandy and the work of Boudin. The sale also present sky studies, praised by Baudelaire, which Monet called “daughters of spontaneity” in the spirit of his own Impression, soleil levant (Paris, Musée Marmottan Monet), while the composition of Trois arbres à Giverny (Peupliers), painted in 1887, presages the numerous studies Monet made while contemplating those trees alongside the Epte river. Also featured are the names of two important men in the history of France who were frequent visitors to Giverny: Sacha Guitry and Clemenceau. In fact, Sacha Guitry, who wanted to show the painter at his easel in his film Ceux de chez nous (1915), photographed him many times. Monet, who took a great interest in photography, wanted to be caught in a natural pose. Sacha Guitry immortalised the painter’s eyes gazing at the sky while his hat reminds us how he loved life in the open air (lot 153). Like Guitry, Clemenceau was privileged to be one of the few people allowed to watch Monet at work, as described in his article ‘Révolution de Cathédrales’ and reiterated in his book Claude Monet, les Nymphéas (1928), and as reflected in the letter he wrote to Michel Monet. Clemenceau’s support for Monet enabled Grandes Décorations de Nymphéas to be displayed in the Orangerie des Tuileries beside the Seine in the heart of Paris, as a posthumous tribute to the artist. Those were the Nymphéas to which Signac was referring in a letter illustrated with a watercolor from La Rochelle on 21st July 1920 and addressed to “Dear Monsieur Monet” whom he so greatly admired (lot 122): “I was therefore unable to accept your kind invitation. It would have been such a joy for me to spend a fine day at Giverny with you and see your great works. ( …)I am devastated by this difficulty ….”. Monet kept in his collection watercolors by Signac in his house at Giverny - the pink house with green shutters depicted by Blanche Hoschedé-Monet, the artist’s daughter-in-law, who enjoyed painting in his company (lot 127). In this same spirit, an important place is occupied by Japanese prints. The great ukiyo-e masters included among them here are Hiroshige, Hokusai and Utamaro… Their “floating world” is reminiscent of the water lily pond spanned by the Japanese bridge at the bottom of Giverny’s gardens (lots 130-140). Among the objects from Monet’s everyday life offered in this sale is one of the flower pots, decorated with motifs of bluebirds and chimeras, which followed Monet during his successive moves from Argenteuil to Vétheuil and finally to Giverny (lot 148). The artist was so fond of these pots that he included them in several paintings he executed inspired by his gardens at Argenteuil and Vétheuil. He would bring some of them indoors during the winter, as can be seen in a painting depicting the interior of the house in Vétheuil. Here, then, we have a collection representing the Master of Giverny, as intriguing as it is moving. It cannot fail to touch lovers of Monet’s works and of those of Boudin, Manet, Signac, Rodin, Guitry and Clemenceau, as well as Japanese print enthusiasts, which Monet was himself.Dear Monsieur Monetby Edwart Vignot, Art historian and artist A revelation occurs when gazing upon the works offered from this unique collection. The works in this intimate grouping remain akin to the well-known masterpieces that birthed the Impressionist Era, yet have never been presented to the public. Who would have known that this treasured collection remained hidden behind the charming walls of the artists beloved home? Perhaps only ever reproduced in dusty monochromatic thumbnails within the pages of a catalogue, Monet’s executions now appear in vivid color before you. This collection, preserved and guarded by Rolande Verneiges (circa 1914-2008), said to be Michel Monet’s illegitimate daughter, allows us to better understand the artistic development and practice of the Master of Light. Claude, whose first drawings (lots 104 and 105) remain academic in both aesthetic and technique, slowly emancipated himself from the teachings of his tutors Jongkind and Boudin (lot 106), to explore the pictorial possibilities from painting outdoors, exposing a renewed study of light. The discovery of Claude’s early works help us to gain further insight into the breadth of the artist’s then growing oeuvre: be it drawings dating back to his youth (lot 103) which manifest his sensibility for nature, or the pastels (lots 116 to 118) and paintings (lots 119 and 129), which feature some of his most avant-guard experimentations with pre-abstraction. Lots 119 and 129 remain loyal to the artist’s quintessential style. Monet’s use of small, vibrant and somewhat abstract brushstrokes in Falaises des Petites-Dalles modernizes the traditional landscape. Monet chose to depict this particular subject throughout different stages of his career, using this scene as a means of exploration in the development of his series work in a palette reminiscent of fauvism. Trois arbres à Giverny offers a composition of surprising modernity through the triptych style framing created by the artist’s most celebrated focal motifs: his poplar trees.Claude Monet’s personal collection is also composed of artworks by members of his inner circle, such as Edouard Manet (lot 120), by whom this illustrious contemporary often considered to be the “father of modernity”, or Paul Signac, the master of pointillist color, whose humor is made apparent in his moving letter to Monet (lot 122). This collection also consists of works by friends and family, such as Monet’s daughter-in-law Blanche Hoschedé-Monet (lots 127 and 128), the variegated work by Louis Ritman (lot 126), as well as works by American artist, Jimmy Butler (lot 125). Further complementing the core of Monet’s prized works lies a plethora of the artist’s cherished Japanese prints (lots 130 to 140). Memories from the artist’s lifetime, as intimate as they are rare, are presented in the form of letters (lot 122), his personal knife (lot 152) and even his spectacles (lot 154), an indispensable tool for the creative and ever observant master. This collection provides a glance into Claude Monet’s daily life, friendships, and most importantly, his artistic development in the context of Impressionism. Monet’s ethereal impressions of light-based natural phenomena are palpable in both his artwork, and that of his contemporaries. It was the objects he collected throughout his life that aided in the very character of his work. Monet once said, “For me, a landscape does not exist in its own right, since its appearance changes at any moment” (C. Monet quoted in R. Friedenthal, Letters of the Great Artists – from Blake to Pollock, London, 1963).Although much of Claude Monet’s early work has been lost - only a few of his caricatures and drawings have survived –the sketchbooks from his youth bear rare witness to his innate and burgeoning talent. Monet’s youthful creations are preserved in two primary sources: loose and scattered sheets from his earliest sketchbooks and the memoires of Théophile Béguin Billecoq, a close friend whose contact with the artist during the summer months and holidays provide the only known firsthand testimony of these lost years. As a frequent guest of the Béguin Billecocq family on their summer sojourns not far from Paris, the young Claude spent his time contemplating and drawing the diversity of the French landscape. In his Grand Journal, Count Théophile Béguin Billecocq commented that Monet’s quick sketching appeared “Impressionistic”, but he also wrote that the drawings were “detailed, as precise as reality, and delicate, representing the houses, trees, people, etc., in the best possible manner”.Capturing the artist’s dexterity in various graphic modes, the sketchbook of 1857 is one of the most important records of Monet’s artistic activity during this period, providing valuable insights into his development as a draftsman during the earliest stages of his career.
Claude Monet (1840-1926)

Croquis d’enfants

Details
Claude Monet (1840-1926)
Croquis d’enfants
stamped with signature 'Claude Monet' (Lugt 1819b; lower right)
pencil and estompe on tinted paper
9 1/8 x 12 1/8 in. (23 x 30.8 cm.)
Executed in 1857
Provenance
Estate of the artist.
Michel Monet, Giverny (by descent from the above).
Rolande Verneiges, France (gift from the above).
By descent from the above to the present owner.
Literature
D. Wildenstein, Claude Monet, Catalogue raisonné, Lausanne, 1991, vol. V, p. 73, no. D 77 (illustrated).
J. A. Ganz and R. Kendall, The Unknown Monet, Pastels and Drawings, exh. cat., Williamstown and London, 2007, p. 21, no. D77 (titled 'Two boys, Seated and Standing').
Post lot text
In Croquis d’enfants and Tête d’Adolescent (lot 102), the artist adopts a very instinctive technique not dissimilar to his later explorations of the landscape. In these two drawings, Monet combines expressive and detailed faces with a soft-focused body and indistinct background. This combination, highlighted with white chalk for Tête d’Adolescent (lot 102), reveals the artist’s early interest in the play of light and shadow.

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Elaine Holt
Elaine Holt

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