CLAUDE MONET (1840-1926)
CLAUDE MONET (1840-1926)
CLAUDE MONET (1840-1926)
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CLAUDE MONET (1840-1926)
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CLAUDE MONET (1840-1926)

La Seine à Bougival

CLAUDE MONET (1840-1926)
La Seine à Bougival
signed 'Claude Monet.' (lower left)
oil on canvas
15 7⁄8 x 28 7⁄8 in. (40.3 x 73.4 cm.)
Painted in 1870
Ernest Guntzwiller, France (circa 1968).
Anon. sale, Nouveau Drouot, Paris, 28 November 1984, lot 37.
Anon. sale, Hôtel des Ventes, Enghien, 19 June 1986, lot 21.
Anon. sale, Sotheby's, London, 30 June 1987, lot 13.
Galerie Rosengart, Lucerne (by 1991).
Galleria d'Arte Maggiore, Bologna.
Galerie Di Meo, Paris.
Private collection, Park City, Utah.
Acquired from the above by Arnold and Anne Ulnick Gumowitz, May 2014.
D. Wildenstein, Claude Monet: Biographie et catalogue raisonné, Lausanne, 1974, vol. I, p. 186, no. 150 (illustrated, p. 187).
D. Wildenstein, Claude Monet: Catalogue raisonné, Lausanne, 1991, vol. V, p. 24, no. 150.
D. Wildenstein, Monet: Catalogue raisonné, Cologne, 1996, vol. II, p. 72, no. 150 (illustrated in color).
Los Angeles, The Getty Museum (on extended loan, 2009-2010).

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Lot Essay

Claude Monet was twenty-eight years old in the spring of 1870 when he set up his easel on the banks of the Seine River at Bougival to paint this dramatic scene. Facing in the direction of Marly, Monet observed the whiplash curve of the Seine and its bare-earth banks, lined with houses; the cluster of trees on the Ile de Crossy; and, above all, the subtle agitation of the clouds in the sky, reflected to brilliant effect in the river below. The resulting canvas, La Seine à Bougival, embodies Monet’s devotion to the genre of landscape and his early experiments in painting en plein air—recording his impressions of nature in all of its transient, temperamental glory.
The year 1870 was consequential for Monet and for France. In March, Monet’s work was refused from the Salon, the annual juried exhibition staged by the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Meanwhile, paintings by Monet’s close friends Jean-Frédéric Bazille and Pierre-Auguste Renoir were accepted by the Salon jury. This rejection was a crushing blow to Monet’s pride; it also cast serious doubt upon his ambitions to support his family as an artist. Still, in June, Monet married Camille Doncieux, his longtime love and the mother of his first son—despite his family’s vehement rejection of Camille. Just one month later, France declared war on Prussia, soon followed by the siege of Paris and the collapse of the Second Empire. These difficult conditions primed the artist to carve a radical new path for himself. This ultimately led him, four years later, to participate in a group exhibition with a number of other artists rejected from the Salon who shared his artistic vision: the Société Anonyme des artistes, peintres, sculpteurs, graveurs, later known as the Impressionists.
During this difficult period, Monet and his young family lived in a small rented house in the village of Saint-Michel near Bougival. Located some ten miles from Paris, Bougival was a popular destination for city-dwellers seeking fresh air and foliage, especially in the summer months. In the summer of 1869, Monet worked side by side with Renoir, observing the tourists as depicted in the painting La Grenouillère (Wildenstein no. 134; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), a floating resort on the Ile de Crossy. This scene was a sunny, jubilant one, with bathers gathered on a dock to swim and diners cavorting in the open-air restaurant nearby. Bougival was particularly lively in the summer, but Monet found ample inspiration there in all kinds of weather—from the deep freeze of winter to the cruel blue skies of spring. The present work was likely painted in the tenuous transition between those two seasons, when the snow melted to reveal the raw earth underneath.
Around the same time, Monet painted another depiction of this same landscape from the inverted perspective; the resulting canvas now belongs to the Smith College Museum of Art (Wildenstein, no. 151). The artist painted this related work on the marshy Ile de Crossy in the middle of the river, looking back towards Bougival. From that vantage point, a few landmarks are faintly visible in the distance: a seventeenth-century aqueduct built by Louis XIV and a modern bridge crossing the Seine. The Smith College picture also represents a different hour than the present work: the radiant, sherbet-colored hues of sunset contrast sharply with the cool shadow of dusk. In revisiting the same site under different conditions, Monet observed the profound differences in color and light. This pair of paintings demonstrates Monet’s repetitive working methods, that would later come to define his serial painting practice.
This particular view of the Seine also held appeal for Monet’s future Impressionist colleagues. In 1871, the following year, Camille Pissarro painted a remarkably similar view in a muddier color palette. Albert Lebourg, a lesser-known painter who participated in the fourth and fifth Impressionist exhibitions, also visited to this place some fifteen years after Monet to paint his own version. Monet was undoubtedly a leading figure in the Impressionist group, despite his occasional refusal to participate in their exhibitions; his landscape paintings served as an enduring model for his friends and followers.

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