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 Collection of Fritz and Lucy Jewett
CLAUDE MONET (1840-1926)

L'église de Vernon

CLAUDE MONET (1840-1926)
L'église de Vernon
signed and dated 'Claude Monet 94' (lower right)
oil on canvas
26 x 36 ¾ in. (66 x 93.2 cm.)
Painted in 1894
Gabriel Cognacq, Paris.
Galerie Bernheim-Jeune et Cie., Paris (1906).
Jos Hessel, Paris (1908).
Ruth B. Parker (Mrs. Woodruff J. Parker), Chicago.
Vose Galleries, Boston (on consignment from the above, circa 1948).
Count Ivan Podgoursky, New York and San Antonio (acquired from the above, 3 April 1952, until at least 1961).
Private collection, California.
Maxwell Galleries, Ltd., San Francisco (1968).
Acquired from the above by the late owners, 13 January 1969.
G. Geffroy, Claude Monet: Sa vie, son temps, son œuvre, Paris, 1922, p. 209.
D. Wildenstein, Claude Monet: Biographie et catalogue raisonné, Lausanne, 1979, vol. III, p. 180, no. 1389 (illustrated, p. 181).
D. Wildenstein, Monet: Catalogue raisonné, Cologne, 1996, vol. III, p. 576, no. 1389 (illustrated, p. 575).
Paris, Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie., Exposition de tableaux de Claude Monet, May 1895, no. 24 or 28.
Arizona, Phoenix Art Museum and California, Oakland Art Museum, One Hundred Years of French Painting 1860-1960, February-March 1961, no. 65 (illustrated; titled Chateau at Vernon).

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Lot Essay

“I discovered the curious silhouette of a church, and I undertook to paint it. It was the beginning of summer… foggy fresh mornings were followed by sudden outbursts of sunshine whose hot rays could only slowly dissolve the mist surrounding every crevice of the edifice and covering the golden stones with an ideally vaporous envelope,” so Claude Monet recalled his impressions of the picturesque town that had first captured his imagination in 1883 (quoted in P.H. Tucker, Claude Monet: Life and Art, New Haven, 1995, p. 153). Having just moved to the nearby hamlet of Giverny, Monet set about finding new motifs to paint along the Seine. Just downstream from his new home, he found a picturesque panorama of the larger village of Vernon, its Gothic church rising above the river banks and wide stretch of the Seine that passed through this rural area of France.
Just over a decade later, in 1894, Monet returned to this same scene and embarked on a series of seven canvases, of which L'église de Vernon is one (Wildenstein, nos. 1386-1391a). In the intervening years, the artist embarked on numerous painting campaigns: from Italy and the south of France, to the remote coastline of his beloved Normandy. Finally, in the closing years of the decade, he returned to Giverny, and it was then that the harvested fields populated with haystacks sparked his imagination, inspiring what would become an entirely novel form and pioneering form of serial painting.
After his intense campaign painting Rouen cathedral at the beginning of the 1890s, Monet sought respite in Giverny, desiring a rural counterpart to the urban monument. He was clearly pleased to find the same nearby stretch of the Seine with the enduring, unchanging structure of the church that had so captivated him in 1883. Moving a little further upstream, he painted L'église de Vernon and the rest of this group, this time from a single vantage point.
Unlike his initial 1883 paintings of the church and river, in this series, it is the atmospheric conditions—ranging from hazy sun to dense fog—rather than the viewpoint that differs, a visual encapsulation of the dramatic shift the artist had made in his working practice and artistic outlook by this time. Monet’s initial 1883 Vernon works are noteworthy for their clear, bright light and the effect of myriad, differently colored touches. In 1894, by contrast, Monet had modified this approach to create an evocative atmosphere that fills the scene. The buildings and foliage of the riverbank in L'église de Vernon have become vaporous forms, enveloped in the soft haze of the fog. No longer concerned with recording the specific topographic details of the scene, as he had in his prior series, it is instead a world of color and light that Monet has transcribed upon the canvas. As a result, it seems as if he was re-experiencing and reflecting on his earlier work from the site as much as he was observing and transcribing the atmospheric lighting conditions of this foggy day on the Seine.
As in the preceding Rouen cathedral canvases, the form of the Gothic church of Vernon looms specter-like over the scene, its centuries-old solidity and monumentality transformed through Monet’s vision into an ephemeral vision of paint and light. Paul H. Tucker sees Monet’s portrayal of this edifice as being closely related to his experience of Rouen cathedral. He has written of Monet’s treatment of the church in L'église de Vernon and the rest of the series: “It was, in effect, the country counterpart to that major urban structure… Monet emphasized its rural qualities in these views from 1894 by isolating the church more than he had in the earlier painting of 1883, diminishing the size of the white house on the right, and expanding the foliage on that side—to such an extent that it wraps around the church, which formerly was quite independent” (Monet in the '90s: The Series Paintings, exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1989, p. 174).
A further reflection of the close connection between these two groups of works is the fact that Monet included the 1894 Vernon works together with a selection of the Rouen series in an exhibition at the Galerie Durand-Ruel in 1895. Monet had postponed this show since the previous year. “I am sorry to have strung you along,” he had told his dealer, Paul Durand-Ruel in May 1894, “but it is really not in the cards at the moment. I am in the thick of work and…prefer not to stop” (quoted in ibid., p. 173). He had decided that the first exhibition of his cathedral paintings needed to include another group of work, to make it “more varied and complete” (quoted in ibid., p. 174). The Vernon paintings provided the perfect pictorial accompaniment. When the exhibition finally took place in 1895, the Vernon scenes, including the present L'église de Vernon, were grouped together in the first room, with the Rouen pictures following them.

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