Claude Monet (1840-1926)
Claude Monet (1840-1926)
Claude Monet (1840-1926)
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Property from the Estate of a Lady
Claude Monet (1840-1926)

Falaise près de Dieppe

Claude Monet (1840-1926)
Falaise près de Dieppe
signed 'Claude Monet' (lower right)
oil on canvas
25 ½ x 39 3/8 in. (65 x 100 cm.)
Painted in 1897.
Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie. and Galerie Bernheim-Jeune et Cie., Paris (acquired from the artist, March 1917).
Durand-Ruel Galleries, New York (acquired from the above, 1921).
Jean d'Alayer, Paris (acquired from the above, 1949).
Private collection.
Galerie Beyeler, Basel (acquired from the above, 28 January 1958).
Stephen Hahn Gallery, New York (acquired from the above, 5 July 1958).
Acquired from the above by the late owner, by 1974.
L. Venturi, Les archives de l'impressionnisme, New York, 1939, vol. I, p. 444, letter 369 and p. 446, letter 372.
D. Wildenstein, Claude Monet: Biographie et catalogue raisonné, Lausanne, 1979, vol. II, p. 294, letters 102 and 103.
D. Wildenstein, Claude Monet: Biographie et catalogue raisonné, Lausanne, 1979, vol. III, p. 210, no. 1471 (illustrated, p. 211).
D. Wildenstein, Claude Monet: Biographie et catalogue raisonné, Lausanne, 1979, vol. IV, p. 395, letter 2206 and p. 396, letter 2220.
D. Wildenstein, Monet: Catalogue raisonné, Cologne, 1996, vol. III, p. 610, no. 1471 (illustrated, p. 609).
(probably) Paris, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune et Cie., Claude Monet, January-February 1921, no. 30.
New York, Durand-Ruel Galleries, Paintings by Claude Monet, January 1922, no. 17.

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Lot Essay

Executed in a weft of warm pastel tones, Falaise près de Dieppe comes from a series of views that Monet painted of the dramatic, towering cliffs along the Normandy coastline between Pourville, Dieppe, and Varengeville over the course of two extended sojourns to the area in 1896 and 1897. It was the first time in a full decade that the artist, a native of Le Havre, had returned to work along the monumental chalk cliffs and windswept beaches of the northern coast, drawn back to the wild beauty of its spectacular scenery. This landscape had been the site of some of Monet's earliest experiments with the serial technique of painting, and his return in the late 1890s may have been driven by a wish to re-engage with motifs that he viewed as instrumental to his evolution as an artist. As Paul Hayes Tucker has explained: “Going back to the Channel allowed Monet to return to his roots, assess his previous work, and test the Northern tradition of landscape painting on which his art had so long and firmly rested” (Monet in the 90s, exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1990, pp. 205-208).
For both the 1896 and 1897 trips Monet traveled north during late winter, taking lodgings in the small seaside town of Pourville, where he had spent nearly six months in 1882. Located two miles west of the larger resort town of Dieppe, Pourville had undergone little change in the intervening years, and Monet instantly set out to explore the landscape once again, searching for the same views that had captured his imagination a decade earlier. Shortly after his arrival, he wrote to his dealer Paul Durand-Ruel: “I set myself up here several days ago, I needed to see the sea again and am enchanted to see once more so many things that I did here fifteen years ago” (quoted in Monet: The Seine and the Sea, 1878-1883, exh. cat., National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh, 2003, p. 35). Though his letters home lamented the changeable weather and the increasing popularity of “English games” such as clay pigeon shooting and golf along the bare cliffs around Dieppe, Monet found plenty of inspiration within the landscape, creating almost fifty compositions over the course of the two trips.
While his earlier sojourns had involved much exploring of the local landscape, roaming over the high chalk cliffs and dramatic beaches along the shoreline, for the 1896-1897 campaign the artist limited his wanderings, focusing his attention on a handful of carefully selected views within easy walking distance of Pourville. For the first few weeks he concentrated on relatively straightforward panoramas of the coastline as it wound westward from the small town, before moving onto the top of the bluffs, seeking more precipitous, challenging vantage points, and then on to paint the Petit Ailly gorge and the small customs house at Varengeville. Falaise près de Dieppe falls within the second of these groupings, taking as its subject a headland at La Côte des Hérons, looking eastwards along the shore towards Dieppe. However, the distinctive profiles of the cliffs that stretch between Pourville and Dieppe are no longer visible in the distance, their forms lost in a hazy mist that blankets the coastline and blurs the boundary between sea, sky and land.
Emphasizing the extreme, rugged nature of the landscape, Falaise près de Dieppe employs a bold asymmetry in its construction, setting the heavy cliff mass to one side of the canvas, its profile rising and falling, jutting out into the sea before sharply receding, as if it is being pushed and pulled by the tide. Using a palette of soft oranges, pinks, pale lilacs, blues and sea greens, Monet brings the cliff alive in a myriad of brushstrokes, capturing the rough texture of the rock face and the sparse vegetation which clings to its surface, shaped and shorn through the tempestuous weather that batters the coast. The variegated tones and textures of the rock face stand out in striking relief against the subtly luminous plane of sea and sky, which Monet has rendered with such a uniform, delicate touch that the horizon line is just barely discernible and the waters of the Channel seem preternaturally calm. Indeed, the resolutely material land mass, with its rippling, irregular contour, achieves a new monumentality against this weightless surrounding void, its rounded forms an anchor amidst the otherwise ethereal expanse.
The views of Normandy offered a perfect counterfoil to the artist’s contemporaneous Matinée sur la Seine series when they were exhibited together at the Galerie Georges Petit in June 1898. Whereas the paintings of the Seine were imbued with the hushed silence of early morning and employed a more restrained palette, the Normandy views were expansive, windswept, and tumultuous, filled with intense colors and vigorous brushwork. Less concerned with the precariousness or changing nature of the scenery before him, in these compositions Monet instead focused on the eternal romance and drama of the Normandy coast, imbuing his canvases with an air of the sublime.

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