CLAUDE MONET (1840-1926)
CLAUDE MONET (1840-1926)
CLAUDE MONET (1840-1926)
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CLAUDE MONET (1840-1926)
4 More
Property from a Distinguished Japanese Collector
CLAUDE MONET (1840-1926)

Saint-Georges Majeur

CLAUDE MONET (1840-1926)
Saint-Georges Majeur
signed and dated ‘Claude Monet 1908’ (lower right)
oil on canvas
23 5/8 x 28 7/8 in. (59.9 x 73.2 cm.)
Painted in 1908
Galerie Bernheim-Jeune et Cie., Paris and Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie., Paris (jointly acquired from the artist, March 1912).
Alexander Cochrane, Boston (acquired from Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie., Paris, July 1912).
James Sullivan Cochrane, Boston (by descent from the above, circa 1919, then by descent until at least 1942).
Wildenstein & Co. Inc., New York and Buenos Aires (1943).
Private collection, Buenos Aires and Milan (acquired from the above, 1954); sale, Christie’s, London, 11 April 1972, lot 33.
Private collection, Tokyo (acquired at the above sale).
Acquired from the above by the present owner, circa 1981.
Letter from C. Monet to G. and J. Bernheim-Jeune, 29 March 1912.
G. Geffroy, "La Venise de Claude Monet" in La Dépêche, vol. 43, no. 16.016, 30 May 1912, p. 1.
G. Geffroy, “Claude Monet" in La Vie, 1 June 1912, pp. 449-450.
H. Genet, "Beaux-Arts et curiosité: Les ‘Venise’ de Claude Monet" in L’Opinion, 1 June 1912, p. 698.
G. Lecomte, "La vie artistique: Un radieux poème à la gloire de Venise, c'est l'illustre peintre Claude Monet qui nous en donne la joie" in Le Matin, vol. 29, no. 10324, 3 June 1912, p. 6.
A. Michel, "Promenade aux Salons" in Journal des débats politiques et littéraires, vol. 124, no. 156, 5 June 1912, p. 1.
F. Thiébault-Sisson, “Art et curiosité: Une féerie de lumière et de couleur, Venise vue par Claude Monet" in Le Temps, vol. 52, no. 18606, 11 June 1912, p. 4.
“Vision d’art: Venise par Claude Monet" in Le Gaulois, vol. 47, no. 12662, 14 June 1912, p. 1.
H. Gheon, "A tracers les expositions: Claude Monet" in L’art décoratif (supplément), 20 June 1912, pp. 4-6.
G. Geffroy, Claude Monet: Sa vie, son temps, son œuvre, Paris, 1922, pp. 318-319.
M. de Fels, La vie de Claude Monet, Paris, 1929, p. 235.
D. Wildenstein, Claude Monet: Biographie et catalogue raisonné, peintures, Lausanne, 1985, vol. IV, p. 236, no. 1745 (illustrated, p. 237); p. 384, letter 2001a.
D. Wildenstein, Claude Monet: Catalogue raisonné, Cologne, 1996, vol. IV, p. 814, no. 1745 (illustrated).
Paris, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune et Cie., Claude Monet: Venise, May-June 1912, no. 9-2.
Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, Claude Monet: Memorial Exhibition, January 1927, no. 39 (titled Venetian Scene).
Buenos Aires, Wildenstein Arte S.A., De Manet a nuestros dias, July 1949, no. 156.
Buenos Aires, Wildenstein Arte S.A., Exposición de Impresionistas, June 1954, no. 8.
Sale Room Notice
Please note that this painting has been requested by the Brooklyn Museum and de Young Museum, San Francisco for their forthcoming exhibition Monet & Venice to be held from October 2025-July 2026.

Brought to you by

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

Lot Essay

Not long after Claude Monet arrived in Venice in October 1908, he declared the city to be “too beautiful to be painted” (quoted in J. Pissarro, Monet and the Mediterranean, exh. cat., Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, 1997, p. 49). Monet was initially overawed by the splendor of the floating city, as it rises mirage-like from the luminous turquoise waters of the Lagoon, enveloped in an eternal array of dancing reflections. It was not long, however, until the artist, unable to resist the unique spectacle of the famed city of light and water, picked up his brushes and began painting.
Over the next ten weeks, Monet captured Venice in a series of thirty-seven works that stand among the crowning achievements of his career (Wildenstein, nos. 1736-1772). On this, his final foreign painting campaign, and the last trip he made with his wife, Alice, Monet painted works that together form a brilliant conclusion to his lifelong love of travel and his endless pursuit of transient atmospheric effects, and also serve among the most renown and apt portrayals of La Serenissima.
Saint-Georges Majeur is one of six works in which Monet captured the expansive view across the Lagoon to the sixteenth-century Palladian church, San Giorgio Maggiore (Wildenstein, nos. 1745-1750). The church is set upon its own island, next to the larger La Giudecca. Monet depicted this floating edifice from the other side of the Bacino di San Marco, a viewpoint that allowed him the maximum expanse of water and sky—and by extension, light and reflections. The luminous white marble of the western façade of the basilica glows in this small series, delicately rendered with soft pinks, peaches and white tones, suggesting that Monet painted these works in the afternoon. Each canvas, however, was painted under different light conditions, as their subtly varying palettes demonstrate. The present work shimmers with an array of pastel tones that distill the luminescence that defines the floating city. Amid Monet’s pearlescent palette, the church seems to vanish in and out of the immersive haze of color. Of this series of six, two works now reside in museum collections, Indianapolis Museum of Art and the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff.
By 1908, Monet had become increasingly insular. Having created his beloved gardens and water lily pond at his home in Giverny, he had little reason to leave, finding all the artistic inspiration he needed for his Nymphéas in his horticultural paradise. After a productive summer that was brought to an end by the onset of poor weather, Monet and his wife received an unexpected invitation from their friend, Mary Young Hunter, an American whom they had met during their travels to London some years earlier. Hunter asked if the Monets would like to stay with her in Venice, in the Palazzo Barbaro, an opulent fifteenth-century Gothic palace situated in prime position on the Grand Canal, just east of the Accademia Bridge.
The Monets arrived in Venice on 1 October. With the height of the tourist season past, the artist and his wife immediately ventured out around the city. Alice wrote to her daughter, “I live in a dream—arriving in Venice, it is just so wonderful, the calm that wins you over, the careful attention of Mrs Hunter, this admirable place—it feels like a fairy tale come true… If Monet works, [my wishes] will be fulfilled” (quoted in ibid., p. 49).
After a few days, Monet began painting. Among his first motifs was the imposing façade of the Doge’s Palace, a view he pictured from the island of San Giorgio Maggiore. In his afternoons, he painted the Grand Canal from the steps of the Palazzo Barbaro, capturing the splendid domes of Santa Maria della Salute. He also depicted a number of palazzi in closely cropped compositions that feature the famed gothic façades that lined Venice’s central waterway.
Monet likely painted the vista of the present work after he and Alice moved to the Grand Hotel Britannia in mid-October. Situated on the Grand Canal, the hotel offered a dazzling view out across the lagoon to San Giorgio Maggiore. The nearby Hotel Danieli was the more popular choice of accommodation at the time, favored by John Ruskin, Emile Zola and Antonin Proust among others, however, a boat dock outside blocked the artist’s view across the water. In a letter of 16 October, Alice wrote, “We have finally arrived at the Hotel Britannia, with a view, if such a thing were possible, even more beautiful than that of Palazzo Barbaro…” (quoted in P. Piguet, Monet et Venise, Paris, 2008, p. 38). Towards the end of his stay, Monet returned to a similar panorama once again, this time capturing it at sunset in a pair of dramatically colored compositions that mark the conclusion of his time in Venice (Wildenstein, nos. 1768-1769).
In contrast to past painting campaigns, Monet did not revisit his chosen motifs at different times of day. Rather, he wanted to capture the subject under the same conditions. “The implication of this decision is very simple,” Joachim Pissarro has written, “for Monet in Venice, time was not to be one of the factors of variations for his motifs. Rather, it was the ‘air,’ or what he called ‘the enveloppe’—the surrounding atmospheric conditions, the famous Venetian haze—that became the principal factor of variation with these motifs” (ibid., p. 50).
The combination of water and architecture provided more than enough inspiration for Monet. Perhaps the defining feature of Venice, the strangely luminous, turquoise waters of the canals and the endlessly shimmering reflections they cast on their surroundings, creates an effect like no other. The whole city appears ephemeral, intangible, magical—almost surreal in its beauty. Attempting to render this immaterial effect in painterly form lay at the heart of Monet’s Venetian campaign.
The prospect of painting Venice was not a simple one for Monet. Venice was, as it remains today, a city steeped in the magnificent heft of its own artistic history and iconography. The place where colore had triumphed over disegno during the Renaissance, it was the home of Giovanni Bellini, Giorgione, Titian, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Paolo Veronese, and Canaletto. Turner had famously captured the city’s unique light. Latterly, Monet would have been aware of his contemporaries’ attempts to render this loaded city—his mentor Eugène Boudin, Edouard Manet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, as well as James Abbott McNeill Whistler, John Singer Sargent, and Paul Signac, from whom Monet had bought a watercolor of the Grand Canal.
In addition to this venerated artistic heritage, Venice was also a city increasingly mired in cliché, fast becoming a victim of its own popularity. As it remains today, perilously in danger of sinking into the lagoon, so it was then, the beauty of its revered monuments fast fading. It had also started to become overrun by tourists, its churches, canals, and gondolas reproduced ad infinitum into numerous kitsch picture post-cards, a city turned into a floating pastiche.
“How was Monet going to reconcile the opposing sides of this Janus-like city?” Paul Hayes Tucker has asked. “How could he pay homage to its celebrated history, perhaps even contribute to its artistic legacy, when he was painting the very kinds of subjects that had been rendered so often that they had become almost meaningless?” (“Revolution in the Garden: Monet in the Twentieth Century,” in Monet in the Twentieth Century, exh. cat., The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1998, p. 56). The artist’s wife pondered similar questions, “It is so beautiful and so made to tempt you,” she wrote, “but really, who is capable of rendering these marvelous effects.” Her loyalty to her husband made the answer very clear: “I really see only one capable of that: my Monet” (quoted in exh. cat., op. cit., 1997, p. 51).
Monet successfully captured the city through a variety of strategies. First, he embraced Venice’s mirage-like quality. Just as he had in his London paintings, he always set water between himself and the architecture he was depicting, ensuring that the play of light and its effect on the surrounding physical structures—the tenets of his career-long Impressionist enterprise—was central to his compositions. Human presence is all but expunged; two floating gondolas in the present work are the only signs of life.
While in many ways Monet seemed to align himself with the vedute tradition of rendering the architecture of the city, using identifiable buildings as the basis for his compositions—San Giorgio Maggiore, the Doge’s Palace, or Santa Maria della Salute, for example—he depicted light in such a way—either brightly, so as to cast these structures into contrasting shadow and light, or softly, enveloping them into a veil of color, as in the present work—so as to ensure the specific details of these sites were lost and a sense of abstraction was gained. As a result, Venice appears mysterious, its monuments rising from the constantly moving waters to be adorned with dazzlingly colored reflections. “Monet made his Venice somehow disembodied, a vision over the water,” Richard Thomson has written, “[he] saw the city as something apart, its monuments rather intangible and mysterious, identifiable yet unspecific, bathed in its own light, or that he accorded it as its own. For Monet, perhaps more than with any other of his city series, orchestrated Venice to suit his own vision” (Monet and Architecture, exh. cat., The National Gallery, London, 2018, p. 207).
Yet, Monet’s visions of Venice were not simply abstract confections of color and light. In each of his motifs Monet played with compositional structure, incorporating often complex pictorial contrasts that ensure his works are elevated from the picturesque. In the present work and the rest of the Saint-Georges Majeur series, the most open, expansive scenes of the Venice group, Monet has heightened the sense of wide space with the addition of insistent horizontal markers: the horizon line set higher, reinforced by the calligraphic strokes that depict the gondolas traversing through the scene. This strong sense of horizontality is broken by the soaring tower of the church’s campanile, which reaches almost beyond the top of the canvas. Monet has given no indication as to where he stood to paint the scene—the lapping waters come right up to the picture plane in the immediate foreground, placing the viewer firmly within this transient realm of light and water. This compositional device heightens the floating quality of the church, the apparent protagonist of the scene. Between the wide planes of the sky and the Lagoon, the architectural focus appears at once to dissolve and emerge from the enveloping, violet-hued atmosphere.
As the end of 1908 drew closer, Monet was reluctant to leave Venice. “Monet is working passionately,” Alice wrote to Gustave Geffroy in November, the artist clearly so absorbed in his work that she had taken over his correspondence. “Venice has got hold of him and won’t let him go” (quoted in D. Wildenstein, Monet or the Triumph of Impressionism, Cologne, 1996, p. 387). Finally, their departure date was set, and the Monets returned to Giverny in early December. On his last day in Venice, Monet wrote to Geffroy: “[My enthusiasm for Venice] has done nothing but grow, and the moment has now come to leave this unique light. I grow very sad. It is so beautiful… I have spent some delightful moments here and nearly forgot that I am the old man that I am” (quoted in exh. cat., op. cit., 1997, p. 53).
Few, if any Venice paintings were completed in the city. Monet returned with them to Giverny, where they remained in his studio to be finished. Several years would pass, however, until the artist revisited his evocative visions of the city. Over the course of the next few years, Monet was faced with a number of tragedies. Alice’s health had begun to decline. At the beginning of 1910, his beloved garden was flooded. Eventually confined to bed, Alice died in May 1911, leaving Monet completely bereft. “I am totally worn out,” he wrote in August. “Time passes and I cannot make anything out of my sad existence. I don’t have the taste for anything and don’t even have the courage to write” (quoted in P.H. Tucker, Claude Monet: Life and Art, New Haven, 1997, p. 200).
Gradually, Monet’s strength and spirits recovered. By early spring he returned to his art, choosing his Venice pictures as the first works to which to return. Perhaps Monet looked to these works in particular to remember happy memories spent with Alice in Venice. Regarded in this context, the paintings became, “meditations on the nature of experience, the practice of art, and the multiple levels of human understanding as much as they are about Venice and its particulars” (P.H. Tucker, exh. cat., op. cit., 1998, p. 57). Almost all of the canvases were completed, and they were exhibited together, including the present work, for the first time in May 1912 at the Galerie Bernheim-Jeune in Paris.
Monet’s latest body of work was met with rapturous praise. As Paul Signac wrote to Monet: “When I looked at your Venice paintings with their admirable interpretation of the motifs I know so well, I experienced a deep emotion, as strong as the one I felt in 1879 when confronted with your train stations, your streets hung with flags, your trees in bloom, a moment that was decisive for my future career. And these Venetian pictures are stronger still, where everything supports the expression of your vision, where no detail undermines the emotional impact… I admire them as the highest manifestation of your art” (quoted in Turner, Whistler, Monet, exh. cat., Tate Britain, London, 2005, p. 207).
Saint-Georges Majeur was acquired not long after it was exhibited by the Boston-based collector, Alexander Cochrane. In 1909, Cochrane had bought a major Nymphéas (Wildenstein, no. 1697) from Monet’s dealer, Paul Durand-Ruel. Saint-Georges Majeur was one of two works he acquired from Monet’s Venice series, the other was Le Grand Canal et Santa Maria della Salute (Wildenstein, no. 1738). A trustee of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Cochrane bequeathed this, together with the Nymphéas, to the museum upon his death in 1919. Saint-Georges Majeur, however, remained in the Cochrane family until at least 1942.

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