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 a Private European Collection
CLAUDE MONET (1840-1926)

Le Fjord de Christiania (Oslo)

CLAUDE MONET (1840-1926)
Le Fjord de Christiania (Oslo)
signed and dated 'Claude Monet 95' (lower right)
oil on canvas
25 5/8 x 39 ¾ in. (65.2 x 101 cm.)
Painted in 1895
Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie., Paris (acquired from the artist, 21 November 1900).
Alexandre Berthier, 4th Prince of Wagram, Paris (acquired from the above, 3 February 1906).
Galerie Durand Ruel et Cie., Paris (acquired from the above, 15 May 1908).
Durand-Ruel Galleries, New York (by transfer from the above, 1920, until at least 1949).
Anon. sale, Galerie Charpentier, Paris, 4 April 1957, lot 59.
Wildenstein & Co. Inc., New York (acquired at the above sale).
James H. Clark, Dallas (acquired from the above, 1961).
Wildenstein & Co. Inc., New York (acquired from the above, 1964).
Galerie Beyeler, Basel (acquired from the above, 28 May 1964).
Private collection, Norway (acquired from the above, 7 July 1964).
Private collection, Oslo (by 1974).
By descent from the above to the present owner.
Letter from C. Monet to P. Durand-Ruel, 9 March 1895.
Letter from C. Monet to P. Durand-Ruel, 17 November 1900.
G. Grappe, Claude Monet, Paris, 1909, p. 65.
L. Venturi, Les archives de l’Impressionnisme, Paris, 1939, vol. I, p. 379, letter 255.
O. Reuterswärd, Monet, Stockholm, 1948, pp. 213-214 and 234 (illustrated, p. 213).
A.K. Hellandsjø, Monet i Norge: 1. Februar-1. April 1895, Hövikodden, 1974, pp. 11 and 20, no. 6 (illustrated, p. 20).
D. Wildenstein, Claude Monet: Biographie et catalogue raisonné, Lausanne, 1979, vol. III, pp. 184 and 301, no. 1400 (illustrated, p. 185).
M. Alphant, Claude Monet: Une vie dans le paysage, Paris, 1993, p. 552.
D. Wildenstein, Monet: Catalogue raisonné, Cologne, 1996, vol. III, p. 580, no. 1400 (illustrated, p. 581).
Paris, Galerie Georges Petit, Claude Monet, June 1898, no. 11 or no. 12.
Paris, Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie., Claude Monet, November-December 1900, no. 26.
Weimar, Grossherzogliches Museum, Claude Monet, April-May 1905, no. 18.
Paris, Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie., Paysages par Claude Monet et Renoir, May-June 1908, no. 26.
Paris, Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie., Claude Monet, March 1914, no. 24.
Sandvika, Henie-Onstad Kunstsenter Høvikodden, Impresjonismen 100år, November 1974-January 1975, p. 4, no. 9 (illustrated).
Sandvika, Henie-Onstad Kunstsenter Høvikodden, Landskaps Kunst, June-August 1978, no. 16.
Stavanger, Rogaland Kunstmuseum and Paris, Musée Rodin, Monet i Norge, July-December 1995, pp. 87 and 180 (illustrated, pp. 87 and 180).

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

Lot Essay

Claude Monet arrived in Norway on the 1 of February 1895 in the middle of a terrible winter storm, exhausted after a long journey by train and boat which had taken him from his home in Giverny, through the snowy landscapes of northern Europe, to the city of Christiania, now Oslo. While Monet’s principle reason for embarking on this voyage north was to visit his stepson Jacques Hoschedé, who had moved to Norway in June of the previous year to improve his mastery of the local language, the promise of striking new motifs, of extreme atmospheric effects and intriguing light conditions fueled his enthusiasm and creative imagination. One of just four paintings of the famous Norwegian fjords that the artist created during his visit, Le Fjord de Christiania (Oslo) has remained in the same private family collection for the past fifty years and was last seen at public exhibition in 1995.
Since the beginning of his career, Monet had been passionate about the transformative effects of winter, eagerly recording the fleeting impressions of frost, ice, fog and snow on his surroundings as temperatures dropped. He was particularly fascinated by snow’s ability to transform a landscape overnight, softening forms, blurring the edges between landmarks and their surroundings, and creating strange effects as the sunlight bounced off its surface. However, during the early 1890s Monet was disappointed by how fleeting the winter weather at his home in Giverny could be, complaining about the speed with which the snow and ice suddenly appeared and then promptly disappeared again. As a result, when he set out to visit Norway during the opening months of 1895 Monet was searching for more reliable and dramatic winter motifs and snow scenes, which he could study uninterrupted, en plein air.
Christiana was blanketed in a thick layer of snow and fog when he arrived, and at first Monet’s adventures were hindered by the bad weather and his inability to ski. Despite his initial disappointment, he was soon won over by the idyllic way of life he observed in the city, as well as the majestic beauty of Norway’s expansive vistas, frozen fjords and layers of seemingly endless snow, which he discovered on a series of trips from Christiania in the company of Jacques. In a letter to his wife Alice, written on his return from a four-day sleigh ride through the mountains, Monet described the sheer wonder he felt in this stunning landscape: “What beautiful sights can be glimpsed from these steep mountain heights across immense lakes, which are completely frozen and covered with snow! Here the snow was over a meter high, and our sleigh glided over it, the sweating horses completely covered in frost and ice like ourselves. I have also seen enormous waterfalls one hundred meters high, but completely frozen, it was quite extraordinary… In short, the disappointment I felt on arrival has been succeeded by endless delight” (letter to Alice Monet, 9 February 1895; quoted in Monet in Norway, exh. cat., Musée Rodin, Paris, 1995, p. 156).
Le Fjord de Christiania (Oslo) is one of a quartet of paintings Monet created during the first two weeks of March, focusing on the dramatic landscape alongside the majestic fjord near the small village of Sandviken, where the artist was staying at the time. Monet had disheartened upon his arrival in Christiania to discover the iconic fjords frozen and covered in snow, proclaiming that their beauty “lies in the sea, the water, and this is no longer there; it is all ice, but covered in snow, so thoroughly that one is no longer aware of being beside the sea…” (letter to Alice Monet, 3 February 1895; quoted in ibid., p. 155). However, by the end of February, the changing weather conditions had begun to eat into the extensive ice shelf, affording the artist his first glimpse of the open water, as the true magnificence of the fjord revealed itself. “Yesterday I was finally able to see the sea; not the ocean itself but part of the fjord where there is no ice,” he wrote to his step-daughter, Blanche Hoschedé on the first of March. “It is half an hour away from here; one reaches it by sleigh across the ice and arrives at the edge of the part where the fjord is no longer iced over. It was marvelous and gave me enormous pleasure, and from it I have a splendid view of small islands almost level with the water, completely covered in snow, and a mountain in the background” (letter to Blanche Hoschedé, 1 March 1895; quoted in ibid., p. 163).
Painted on one such trip, Le Fjord de Christiania (Oslo) captures the view almost exactly as it is described in Monet’s letter. Working at the very edge of the ice-floe, Monet captures the crystal blue waters of the fjord lapping against the small, isolated islands that dot this stretch of water, the mountains in the far distance standing tall and imposing, while the snow-laden banks of the peninsula reach out into the water in long, sinuous lines. Unlike many of the artist’s effets de neige captured in France, which emphasize the still, silent atmosphere of the snow-bound world, his paintings of the Norwegian fjord appear alive with movement and drama. Indeed, viewers can almost imagine the thundering cracks of the ice as great fissures open up in its surface, the deep groaning of the water trapped beneath the ice-shelf on which the artist stood, and the sound of the rushing cool, clear water as it passes by his easel, slowly eroding the ice at the edge of this wintry world.
A clear source of inspiration for many of Monet’s paintings from Norway were the Japanese ukiyo-e prints of Utagawa Hiroshige and Katsushika Hokusai, of which he was an avid collector. Indeed, Monet compared Sandviken to a Japanese village in several letters to his family, and Mont Kolsås to “Fuji-yama,” although his knowledge of Japan and its landscape lay solely in the prints that filled the walls of his home. In Le Fjord de Christiania (Oslo), Monet echoes the decoupage layering of Hiroshige’s scenes in his depiction of the landscape, constructing the composition through a series of distinct planes, carefully layered atop one another in a manner that lends a dramatic sense of depth to the scene.
While the changing weather had enabled him to discover the flowing waters of the fjord, the approaching thaw was a growing concern for Monet over the ensuing two weeks. Having initially cursed the abundant snowfall, he soon became worried by the encroaching springtime weather, as temperatures began to rise, the sun began to blaze and the crisp winter landscape came under threat. Towards the end of his trip, his daily letters to his family were filled with despairing reports of the changing conditions, the remarkable stretch in the hours of daylight each evening, and the shocking speed of the advancing warm weather. As a result, it became a race against time to capture the picturesque snowbound scenes before they disappeared. Indeed, shortly after his discovery of the free flowing waters of the fjord, the local authorities banned all vehicles from venturing onto the rapidly receding ice. As the journey by foot to their previous vantage point was simply too arduous a trek for the artist and Jacques, Monet’s days of painting at the edge of the fjord came to an end. As a result, Le Fjord de Christiania (Oslo) is among the only mementoes Monet captured of this fleeting, magical view of the Norwegian landscape.

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