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Claude Monet (1840-1926)
Property from the Collection of Dr. and Mrs. Jerome S. Coles
Claude Monet (1840-1926)

Le Pommier

Claude Monet (1840-1926)
Le Pommier
signed and dated 'Claude Monet 1879' (lower right)
oil on canvas
21 3/8 x 25 5/8 in. (54.2 x 65.5 cm.)
Painted in 1879
Fromentin collection, France; sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 5 December 1901, lot 22.
Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie., Paris (acquired at the above sale).
Paul Cassirer, Berlin (acquired from the above, 25 May 1906).
Justin K. Thannhauser, Berlin.
Paul H. Schmolka, Prague and New York (acquired from the above, 1 April 1931).
Vera Smolka Sherman, Alexandria, Virginia (by descent from the above, by 1971).
Wildenstein & Co., Inc., New York (acquired from the above, January 1976).
Acquired from the above by the late owners, May 1978.
G. Grappe, Claude Monet, Paris, 1909, p. 74 (illustrated).
D. Wildenstein, Claude Monet: Biographie et catalogue raisonné, Lausanne, 1974, vol. I, p. 340, no. 523 (illustrated, p. 341).
D. Wildenstein, Claude Monet: Catalogue raisonné, Lausanne, 1991, vol. V, p. 33, no. 523.
D. Wildenstein, Monet: Catalogue raisonné, Cologne, 1996, vol. II, p. 205, no. 523 (illustrated in color).
M. Clarke and R. Thomson, Monet: The Seine and the Sea, 1878-1883, exh. cat., National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh, 2003, p. 64.

Lot Essay

In August 1878, Monet left the bustling suburban town of Argenteuil, where he had lived and worked since the Franco-Prussian War, and settled some sixty kilometers to the west in the rural enclave of Vétheuil, population six hundred. The appeal of Argenteuil had waned for the artist as the encroachments of modernity—new factories, expanded rail service, a burgeoning tourist industry—increasingly disrupted its bucolic calm. Vétheuil, by contrast, offered an older, more timeless vision of the French countryside, far from the Parisian sprawl—“a ravishing spot,” Monet declared, “from which I should be able to extract some things that aren’t bad” (quoted in M. Clarke and R. Thomson, op. cit., 2003, p. 17).
At Vétheuil, Monet entirely abandoned the scenes of modern life and leisure that had dominated his work at Argenteuil and began to focus instead on capturing nature in its most fugitive aspects. “The acknowledged painter of contemporary life who settled in Vétheuil in 1878 departed from that town in 1881, as from a chrysalis, renewed and redirected,” Carole McNamara has written (Monet at Vétheuil: The Turning Point, Ann Arbor, 1998, p. 86).
Le Pommier, painted during Monet’s first spring at Vétheuil, is a portrait of a single blossoming apple tree, centrally placed, its branches reaching out almost to fill the picture space. A well-trodden footpath enters the scene at the bottom left, drawing the eye toward a diminutive figure who stands beneath the tree, a proxy for the plein air painter. The day is pleasantly overcast, lending the light a delicate, silvery quality. In a second painting that Monet made of the exact same motif, the clouds have parted and the sun is lower in the sky, producing stronger contrasts and a more golden tonality (Wildenstein, no. 524).
“These paintings give a vibrant sense of a spring day, the blossoming fruit trees making their presence emphatically—if temporarily—felt,” Richard Thomson has written. “They articulate the landscape painter’s thrill at seeing burgeoning nature push human presence to the margins” (op. cit., 2003, p. 64).

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