CLAUDE MONET (1840-1926)
CLAUDE MONET (1840-1926)
CLAUDE MONET (1840-1926)
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CLAUDE MONET (1840-1926)
4 More
Property from The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and the Heirs of Ethel B. Atha, Sold in Part to Benefit the Museum's Future Art Acquisitions
CLAUDE MONET (1840-1926)

Moulin de Limetz

CLAUDE MONET (1840-1926)
Moulin de Limetz
signed and dated 'Claude Monet 88' (lower left)
oil on canvas
36 3/8 x 28 5/8 in. (92.5 x 72.8 cm.)
Painted in 1888
Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie., Paris (acquired from the artist, 20 July 1891).
Lucien Sauphar, Paris (acquired from the above, 9 June 1902); Estate sale, Galerie Charpentier, Paris, 17 March 1936, lot 26.
Durand-Ruel Galleries, New York and M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., New York (jointly acquired at the above sale).
Joseph S. and Ethel B. Atha, Shawnee Mission, Kansas (acquired from M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., New York, 25 October 1941).
Partial bequest from Ethel B. Atha to The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri, 1986.
G. Geffroy, "Histoire de l'Impressionnisme" in La vie artistique, vol. III, 1894, pp. 85-86.
G. Geffroy, Claude Monet: Sa vie, son temps, son œuvre, Paris, 1922, pp. 118 and 123 (titled Moulin sur l'Epte).
G. Geffroy, Claude Monet: Sa vie, son œuvre, Paris, 1924, vol. I, pp. 197 and 214 (titled Moulin sur l'Epte).
G.-S. Mercier, "Mouvement artistique: A l'exposition de la 'cité moderne,' question de prix" in L'écho d'Alger, vol. 25, no. 9382, 12 April 1936, p. 8.
D. de Charnage, "Chronique artistique: Les grandes ventes" in La Croix, vol. 57, no. 16412, 18 August 1936 (titled Le vieux moulin).
O. Reuterswärd, Monet: En konstnärshistorik, Stockholm, 1948, p. 183 (illustrated, p. 183, pl. 85; dated 1887).
D. Rouart and J.-D. Rey, Monet: Nymphéas ou les miroirs du temps, Paris, 1972, p. 73 (detail illustrated, p. 72; dated 1883).
D. Wildenstein, Claude Monet: Biographie et catalogue raisonné, Lausanne, 1979, vol. III, p. 116, no. 1210 (illustrated, p. 117).
D. Lewis, "Museum Impressions" in Carnegie Magazine, vol. 59, no. 12, November-December 1989, p. 46.
R. Ward, "Selected Acquisitions of European and American Paintings at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, 1986-1990: Supplement" in The Burlington Magazine, vol. 133, no. 1055, February 1991, pp. 155-156 (illustrated in color, p. 155, fig. IV).
W.H. Gerdts, Monet's Giverny: An Impressionist Colony, New York, 1993, p. 17.
B. Denvir, The Chronicle of Impressionism: An Intimate Diary of the Lives and World of the Great Artists, London, 1993, p. 279.
R. Ward and P.J. Fidler, eds., The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art: A Handbook of the Collection, New York, 1993, p. 211 (illustrated).
"Music Teachers National Association: National Convention" in American Music Teacher, vol. 45, no. 4, February-March 1996, p. 23.
D. Wildenstein, Claude Monet: Catalogue raisonné, Cologne, 1996, vol. III, p. 460, no. 1210 (illustrated).
O. Poncet, ed., Claude Monet: A Tribute to Daniel Wildenstein and Katia Granoff, exh. cat., Wildenstein & Co. Inc., New York, 2007, p. 140.
D.E. Scott, ed., The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art: A Handbook of the Collection, Kansas City, 2008, p. 124, no. 317 (illustrated in color).
A. Thorson, "Three Times the Wonder: Claude Monet's Later Work Reflects his Obsession with the Color and Reflections in his Water Garden" in Kansas City Star Magazine: Kansas City Star, vol. 131, no. 198, 3 April 2011, p. S9.
"Nelson-Atkins to Unveil Renovated Bloch Galleries of European Art in winter 2017" in, 20 July 2016 (accessed March 2024).
C. Futter et al., Bloch Galleries: Highlights from the Collection of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, 2016, p. 94 (illustrated).
N. Siegal, "Hieronymus Bosch is Credited with Work in Kansas City Museum" in The New York Times, vol. 165, no. 57130, 1 February 2016, p. C5.
Paris, Galerie Georges Petit, Claude Monet, A. Rodin, June 1889, p. 41, no. 122.
Paris, Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie., Monet, Pissarro, Renoir & Sisley, April 1899, p. 6, no. 29 (titled Moulin sur l'Epte).
Paris, Galerie Georges Petit, Claude Monet, January 1924, no. 5 (titled Le Moulin d'Epte).
Kansas City, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art (intermittently exhibited as part of the collection, 1986-2024).
Kansas City, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Impressionism: Selections from Five American Museums, July-September 1990.
Kansas City, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Monet and his Modern Legacy, October 2023-March 2024.

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

Lot Essay

After a spring painting campaign in the south of France, Claude Monet traveled back to his beloved home in Giverny at the end of April 1888. On his return, he devoted himself once more to depicting the idyllic rural landscape of this area, finding a wealth of inspiration in the verdant meadows and marshes, the tranquil waters of the river Epte and Seine, and, as the farmers began their harvest, the grainstacks that appeared in the fields near his house. Moulin de Limetz is one of two canvases in which Monet pictured the mill at Limetz-Villez, a village just over a mile south of Giverny, with a branch of the Epte, the so-called Bras de Limetz, flowing gently past.
Though the seeming protagonist of this large canvas is the mill, this was for Monet simply a pretext for capturing the striking, sun-dappled foliage of the tree that covers over half of the composition, together with the shimmering reflections on the river that stretches towards the bridge in the distance. While the pendant picture (Wildenstein, no. 1210a; Hasso Plattner Collection, Museum Barberini, Potsdam) presents the same scene in cool shadow, in the present work, Monet has conveyed the rich, warm light of a summer’s day. Though green tones appear on first glance to preside, the canvas is composed of a dazzling array of colors, from inky blues, violet and flashes of emerald green, to soft, pastel pinks and creams, applied with a thick impasto. The surface is richly textured, a tapestry of luminous tones that appears almost abstract in places. The flurry of strokes that represent the fluttering leaves on the branches both frame and obstruct the view of the mill beyond—a radical type of repoussoir that overturns conventional notions of landscape painting. In contrast to the dancing strokes of color that constitute the leaves in the foreground, the water is rendered with an exquisite delicacy. The reflections, a symphonic combination of blues, greens, whites and pinks, sweep across the width of the canvas in soft vertical stripes, mirroring the tangible elements of the scene, as well as the small glimpse of blue sky above. Light and air therefore become subjects in themselves, masterfully distilled by Monet into painterly form.
Monet had moved with his family to Giverny in April 1883. Situated at the confluence of the Seine and the Epte about forty miles northwest of Paris, Giverny was at this time a picturesque farming community of less than three hundred residents. Far removed from the encroaching modernization spreading out of Paris, Giverny remained as it had for decades prior, an unspoiled rural idyll. Upon his arrival there, Monet rented a large, pretty pink stucco house, named “Le Pressoir,” set within two acres of land. When the property came up for sale in 1890, the artist purchased it, telling his dealer, Paul Durand-Ruel, that he was “certain of never finding a better situation or more beautiful countryside” (quoted in P.H. Tucker, Claude Monet: Life and Art, New Haven, 1995, p. 175). After taking ownership of the house, Monet began to create the horticultural oasis for which Giverny has become best known. Both his gardens and water lily pond, together with the surrounding countryside, would offer the artist inexhaustible subject matter for the rest of his life.
In addition to painting his celebrated gardens, Monet was fascinated by the landscape near his home and explored it in all seasons. Though he continued to travel across the country and beyond in pursuit of new and challenging artistic motifs, he was constantly reinspired by the motifs available at Giverny. From winding country roads to expansive poppy-filled fields and verdant meadows, Monet painted his surroundings with a ceaseless fascination. As he once described, “My heart is always in Giverny…” (quoted in C. Becker, Monet’s Garden, exh. cat., Kunsthaus Zürich, 2004, n.p.).
To paint Moulin de Limetz, Monet ventured from Giverny to Limetz. Over the course of these late spring and summer months, Monet had been frequently drawn to this nearby village, painting a number of bucolic scenes set in the meadows and pastures around it, some of which included members of his family (Wildenstein, nos. 1194-1206). For the present work, however, Monet focused on a closely cropped view of the mill. The mill, which no longer exists, was one of a number in the area—there were three in Giverny alone. This would be the only occasion on which Monet painted this motif. A few years later, in 1891, Monet returned to Limetz, in particular to the ascendent poplar trees that lined the Epte there. These would form the subject of one of his greatest series, Les Peupliers.
With its bold brushwork and emphatic focus on the varying qualities and effects of light, Moulin de Limetz is a defiantly Impressionist work, painted at a time when this movement was moving into new directions. The final Impressionist exhibition had been held two years earlier, in the spring of 1886. From the start of this decade, many of the leading proponents of Impressionism had begun to pursue different artistic ideas. Pierre-Auguste Renoir had gone to Italy in 1881 to study Classicism and the Renaissance, Edgar Degas had refused to exhibit in the Impressionist exhibition in 1882, Camille Pissarro had fallen under the spell of the Neo-Impressionists in 1885, introducing more studied, careful brushstrokes into his painting. In 1888, Pissarro invited the Neo-Impressionist leader, Georges Seurat, to join that year’s Impressionist exhibition—a decision that had caused Monet, Renoir, and Alfred Sisley to abstain from participating. There, Seurat debuted his pointillist masterpiece, Un dimanche d’été à l’Ile de La Grande Jatte (The Art Institute of Chicago), “nothing less than a direct assault on the style and subjects of his Impressionist forbears,” Paul Hayes Tucker has written (op. cit., 1995, p. 126).
“I am still an Impressionist and will always remain one,” Monet had declared in 1880, when the group was beginning to disband (quoted in P.H. Tucker, Monet in the 90s: The Series Paintings, exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1989, p. 20). By the end of the decade, however, “he must have realized he was truly on his own and that if Impressionism was going to continue to be a viable style equal to the likes of Seurat’s pseudo-scientific method, it was up to him to prove it” (P.H. Tucker, op. cit., 1995, p. 127). From the dramatic canvases painted at Belle-Île in the second half of 1886, to the delicate, sun-soaked vistas of Antibes that he completed in the opening months of 1888, interspersed with an increasing exploration of the figure within the landscape that he worked on in Giverny in the months between, Monet deftly demonstrated the power of Impressionism, distinguishing the movement as wholly avant-garde. With these preceding series and the present Moulin de Limetz and its pendant work, Monet had begun to limit his range of motifs, honing in on a carefully chosen number of vistas and painting these intensely in different light and weather conditions. This nascent serial method became the route through which Monet would unequivocally demonstrate the continued relevance—and radicality—of Impressionism.
Monet’s works from the south of France were exhibited in Paris in June 1888. Met with praise by some, these paintings were criticized by the artist’s former Impressionist comrades. As Pissarro wrote, the paintings “are beautiful, but…they do not represent a highly developed art… Almost all the painters take this view. Degas is even more severe, he considers these paintings to have been made to sell… he maintains Monet made nothing but beautiful decorations. Renoir also finds them retrograde” (quoted in J. Rewald, ed., Camille Pissarro: Letters to his son Lucien, London, 1980, p. 127).
Regarded in this context, Moulin de Limetz and Monet’s work from the summer of 1888 can be seen as a direct response to these critiques from the artist’s contemporaries. By focusing primarily on the abundant foliage of the trees in full leaf, together with the surface of the water, Monet emphasized above all his facture—the same formal element that made Seurat’s work so radical. In so doing, Monet transformed a picturesque rural scene into a daring composition that explores both the nature of representation and the act of painting. In its overt affirmation and celebration of the brushstroke itself, the two Moulin paintings, as well as the closely related Un tournant de l’Epte (Wildenstein, no. 1209), could be seen as Monet’s response to the avant-garde’s seeming embrace of Seurat and Neo-Impressionism in place of Impressionism.
In Un tournant de l’Epte, a painting, which, like the present work, focuses above all on the abundant, blossom-like foliage of trees—in this case, a row of poplars lining the Epte—Monet has covered almost the entire canvas with brushstrokes evoking the leaves. These strokes are, as Paul Hayes Tucker has described, “so individualized and so rich with pigment that they assert their abstract presence as paint as much as they describe any natural phenomena… they are inconceivable without Seurat’s or Pissarro’s divisionist dots. Monet takes almost every opportunity, however, to distinguish his touch from theirs… Most importantly… he makes his imitative touch much livelier than any Neo-Impressionist would dare by using dashes and curling strokes often laid one on top of the other instead of the stricter, more uniform divisionists’ dots” (op. cit., 1995, p. 134). By painting a scene with such a clear demonstration of his brushwork, Monet was directly referencing the pointillist’s approach and manipulating it to achieve his own pictorial goals, namely to capture the light and atmosphere of a scene. “He was, in short, outdoing the divisionists and asserting his superiority in the face of their ridicule” (ibid., p. 134).
At the end of the summer, the farmers began harvesting their fields and constructing stacks of wheat. These large, dome-like forms caught Monet’s eye and he began a series of five paintings that depicted the grainstacks. He returned to the same motifs under different light and weather conditions, marking the start of what would become a series of thirty canvases, which have come to be regarded as among the most iconic works of his career. Though he had begun painting this subject in the late summer of 1888, he would not return to it until 1890. Moulin de Limetz therefore dates from an important period of intense reevaluation and exploration in Monet’s career, a time during which the idea of serial painting came to fruition, and as a result, his form of Impressionism once more expanded the boundaries of landscape painting.
The motif of water and the reflections of light was not new to Monet’s work: his deft ability at rendering these ephemeral, intangible effects had been a central part of his painting since the beginning of his career. However, regarding Moulin de Limetz in the context of Monet’s subsequent work at Giverny, namely his famed Nymphéas, this painting can be seen as a precursor to the themes that would dominate his work for the rest of his life. The surface of his water lily pond became an artistic obsession, as the artist gradually reduced all background elements to hone in solely on the reflections of light amid the lily-strewn waters. Often working on a large scale, Monet’s intense focus enabled paint itself to come to the fore, as color and handling became the dominant protagonists of these aqueous scenes. As a result, Monet attained a novel form of abstraction, one that would continue to influence artists throughout the twentieth century and beyond.
Monet chose to include Moulin de Limetz in the landmark retrospective he shared with Auguste Rodin in June 1889. Held at the Galerie Georges Petit in Paris, this exhibition was planned to coincide with the Exposition Universelle taking place at the same time. Born two days apart in November 1840, the two artists were friends, though at this point in their careers, Rodin was more accepted within the Parisian art world, while Monet was still regarded as a rebellious outsider. Sharing an exhibition with the sculptor therefore lent the Impressionist a greater respectability, as well as confirming him as the leader of contemporary painting.
The exhibition was a triumph. Running for three months, this was the largest showing of Monet’s work to date, featuring just under 150 works, almost half of which he had painted in the three years prior. Monet worked hard to secure loans from many of the notable collectors who owned his earlier works, the names of which were included boldly in the exhibition catalogue. Indeed, by the time that the show opened, only a third of the group was for sale.
The catalogue itself was a landmark publication. Monet chose Octave Mirbeau to write his introduction (Gustave Geffroy wrote Rodin’s). Mirbeau was at this time a prominent critic in contemporary circles. Monet’s decision was therefore a clever way of further distinguishing himself as a leader of the avant-garde. Mirbeau’s lengthy text sought to set the artist apart from his pointillist rivals, as well as his former Impressionist colleagues, describing how his painting rendered “the life of air, the life of water, of scents and light” (quoted in exh. cat., op. cit., 1989, p. 57). The exhibition was met with critical acclaim. “In this superb exhibition, there is not a lapse nor a hesitation… Nature has never been rendered with more intensity and truth,” the Belgian art critic, Octave Maus wrote (ibid., p. 59).
Moulin de Limetz remained in Monet’s collection until 1891, when Durand-Ruel acquired it. It was bought not long after by the collector, Lucien Sauphar, with whom it remained until 1936. Acquired from Sauphar’s estate sale jointly by Durand-Ruel and M. Knoedler & Co., New York, the painting crossed the Atlantic, where, a few years later, in 1941, it was bought by Joseph S. and Ethel B. Atha, of Kansas City. It remained in their collection until Ethel died in 1986. At her bequest, it was gifted partially to The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Upon the death of Ethel’s daughter, Ethelyn Atha Chase, in September 2023, who held a life interest in part of the painting, the work will now be sold. Proceeds from the sale will be used to support future art acquisitions for The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

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