CLAUDE MONET (1840-1926)
CLAUDE MONET (1840-1926)
CLAUDE MONET (1840-1926)
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CLAUDE MONET (1840-1926)
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Property from the Estate of Ann Eldredge Middelthon
CLAUDE MONET (1840-1926)

La Méditerranée

CLAUDE MONET (1840-1926)
La Méditerranée
signed 'Claude Monet' (lower right)
oil on canvas
24 x 29 1/8 in. (61 x 74 cm.)
Painted in 1888
Dr. Salaté, Paris; sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 22 February 1919, lot 41.
Galerie Bernheim-Jeune et Cie. and Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie., Paris (acquired at the above sale).
Durand-Ruel Galleries, New York (acquired from the above, 1919, until at least 1949).
Sam Salz, New York.
Drs. Fritz and Peter Nathan, Zürich.
Frau Polak-Schwarz, Amsterdam (January 1965).
Anon. sale, Sotheby Parke Bernet & Co., London, 7 April 1976, lot 6.
Ambassador Arnold Saltzman, Great Neck, New York.
James Goodman Gallery, New York.
Acquired from the above by the late owner, November 1981.
(possibly) M. Guillemot, “Claude Monet” in La revue illustrée, 15 March 1898.
(possibly) O. Reuterswärd, Monet en konstnärshistorik, Stockholm, 1948, p. 281.
D. Wildenstein, Claude Monet, Milan, 1971, p. 56 (illustrated in color, fig. 1; titled Il Mediterraneo presso Antibes).
Dr. Fritz Nathan und Dr. Peter Nathan, 1922-1972, Zürich, 1972, no. 75 (illustrated in color; dated 1886).
L. Rossi Bortolatto, L’opera completa di Claude Monet, Milan, 1972, p. 108, no. 324 (illustrated, p. 109; titled Il Mare Presso Antibes).
D. Wildenstein, Claude Monet: Biographie et catalogue raisonné, Lausanne, 1979, vol. III, p. 108, no. 1184 (illustrated, p. 109).
D. Wildenstein, Claude Monet: Biographie et catalogue raisonné, supplément aux peintures, dessins, pastels, Lausanne, 1991, vol. V, p. 46, no. 1184.
D. Wildenstein, Monet: Catalogue raisonné, Cologne, 1996, vol. III, p. 450, no. 1184 (illustrated, p. 447).
Waterbury, Mattatuck Historical Society, 1919.
New York, Durand-Ruel Galleries, Monet, May 1919, no. 7.
Fort Worth, Kimbell Art Museum and Brooklyn Museum of Art, Monet and the Mediterranean, June 1997-January 1998, p. 114 (illustrated in color, p. 115, pl. 44).

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Emily Kaplan
Emily Kaplan Senior Vice President, Senior Specialist, Co-Head of 20th Century Evening Sale

Lot Essay

“It is so beautiful here, so bright, so luminous. One swims in blue air, and it is frightening” (quoted in J. Pissarro, Monet and the Mediterranean, exh. cat., Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, 1997, p. 44). So wrote Claude Monet from Antibes, the picturesque Côte d’Azur town in which he had based himself in the opening months of 1888. Having arrived in the south of France in the middle of January, Monet embarked on an incredibly productive painting campaign, painting just under forty canvases that depicted a carefully selected range of motifs, including Antibes, “a small fortified town, baked to a golden crust by the sun,” captured from different vantage points across the bay and up the coast, each of which is saturated with jewel-like tones, as Monet reveled in the dazzling, sun soaked and verdant landscape of the south (ibid., p. 42).
La Méditerranée is one of a small group of closely related paintings from this sojourn in which Monet adopted a low vantage point, focusing solely on the sparkling expanse of the azure waters stretching away towards the pink hued horizon in the distance (Wildenstein, nos. 1181-1184). Here, Monet has employed short, rapid strokes of rich, impastoed color to capture the effect of the rippling sea and the gentle waves breaking on the coastline. Every corner of the canvas glows; the green foliage casting vivid purple shadows on the rocky outcrop and strokes of vibrant teal and white creating the effect of the dancing reflections of light atop the sea. In contrast to the other motifs of Monet’s Antibes campaign, La Méditerranée is among the most radical thanks to its boldly simplified composition. Reducing the scene to a combination of two elements—land and sea—Monet was able to immerse himself entirely in the play of light upon this idyllic vista, capturing the dazzling impression of this seascape.
After the dramatic, windswept vistas that he had been painting at Belle-Isle on the Brittany coast, the golden light of the south hit Monet with the force of a revelation. The artist had first discovered the south of France a few years before this trip. In 1883, he had visited Monaco and the Riviera with Pierre-Auguste Renoir, before returning alone in the new year, when he stayed in Bordighera on northwest coast of Italy for 10 weeks. After his dealer, Paul Durand-Ruel suggested that he escape the northern winter for the Midi, Monet left Paris on a new, luxury train, arriving first in Cassis, before making his way to the Cap d’Antibes, where he decided to remain. On the recommendation of his friend, the writer Guy de Maupassant, Monet arranged to stay at the Château la Pinède, a small pension popular with artists. Instantly beguiled by the light of the region, he spent his first few days at Antibes familiarizing himself with the immediate environs before venturing farther away, at one point walking more than fifteen miles from Monaco to Nice. By 19 January, just a week after his arrival, he had already located “five or six superb motifs,” writing to his wife Alice, “The weather is so admirable that it would be a crime not to set to work right away” (ibid., p. 42).
Monet plunged into his painting campaign, though he was frequently thwarted by the unpredictable, often extreme climate of the south coast. From the radiant light of the southern sun, to raging mistral winds, the landscape could change dramatically in front of Monet’s eyes. At one point he was forced to chain his canvas and easel to the ground to stop them blowing away in the wind. “Everything grows, everything changes before your eyes” (ibid., p. 45), he remarked to Alice; while to Berthe Morisot he described, “It is so difficult, so delicate, so tender [in Antibes]” (quoted in P.H. Tucker, Monet in the '90s: The Series Paintings, exh. cat., Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, 1989, p. 19). “I’m working from morning to evening, brimming with energy,” he told Renoir, “I’m fencing and wrestling with the sun. And what a sun it is. In order to paint here one would need gold and precious stones. It is quite remarkable” (quoted in R. Gordon and A. Forge, Monet, New York, 1983, p. 123).
Despite this meteorological volatility, Monet painted with an unstoppable passion. Given the fast moving changes in light and atmosphere, he increasingly adopted a serial method to depict the landscape around him, honing in on a single motif and returning to it on multiple occasions, as La Méditerranée and the related works of this group demonstrate. It was this approach to plein air painting that would come to define Monet’s iconic series of the 1890s, including the Poplars, Haystacks, and London works. As William Seitz has explained, “…at Antibes, in one of the first systematically cyclical portrayals of light [Monet's] almost pointillist touches have this effect, and the enduring tones of the leaves, branches, and earth, are wholly supplanted by the scintillating permeation of a Mediterranean morning, noon, and afternoon. With this group, the series method is fully postulated” (Claude Monet: Seasons and Moments, exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1960, pp. 19-23).
More than any of his Impressionist contemporaries, Monet had a great love of travel. Throughout the 1880s he crossed the country, from Normandy to Menton, venturing further afield to London, Bordighera and The Hague, driven by a singular aim: to paint. He reveled in contrasting landscapes and the differing topographies, light conditions and climates, as well as the varying symbolism or associations an area held. Yet, this desire to discover new motifs was not the sole motive for his frequent travel throughout this decade. As the Impressionist group disbanded, Monet not only sought to emphasize the continued relevance of the movement’s aims, but attempted to decentralize it away from Paris and northern France. Moving across the country, he could not only assert his artistic powers and versatility, but prove the unwaning importance of Impressionism.

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