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Claude Monet (1840-1926)
Claude Monet (1840-1926)
Claude Monet (1840-1926)
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Property of a Distinguished Private Collector
Claude Monet (1840-1926)

Waterloo Bridge, effet de brouillard

Details
Claude Monet (1840-1926)
Waterloo Bridge, effet de brouillard
signed and dated 'Claude Monet 1903' (lower right)
oil on canvas
25 7/8 x 39 5/8 in. (65.7 x 100.2 cm.)
Painted in 1899-1903.
Provenance
Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie., Paris (acquired from the artist, 7 June 1904).
Durand-Ruel Galleries, New York (acquired from the above, 14 December 1904).
Amy Lowell, Boston (acquired from the above, 4 February 1905).
Elizabeth and William Lowell Putnam, Boston (by descent from the above).
Katharine and Harvey H. Bundy, Boston (by descent from the above, circa 1936); sale, Christie's, New York, 31 October 1978, lot 12.
Anon. sale, Christie's, London, 30 June 1980, lot 21.
International Art Center, Geneva (acquired at the above sale).
Private collection, Japan (acquired from the above, circa 1982).
Anon. sale, Sotheby's, New York, 11 May 1999, lot 119.
Private collection (acquired at the above sale).
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
Literature
Laertes, "Causeries. La quinzaine artistique" in La Dépêche de Toulouse, 30 May 1904, p. 1.
S.F. Damon, Amy Lowell: A Chronicle, with Extracts from her Correspondence, New York, 1935, pp. 154 and 264.
L. Venturi, Les archives de l'Impressionnisme, Paris, 1939, vol. I, pp. 393-394.
D. Wildenstein, Claude Monet: Biographie et catalogue raisonné, Lausanne, 1985, vol. IV, p. 182, no. 1592 (illustrated, p. 183); p. 365, lettres 1723-1724 and pp. 472-428 and 432, pièces justificatives 169-170, 178-179 and 327.
D. Wildenstein, Claude Monet: Catalogue raisonné, supplément aux peintures, dessins, pastels, Lausanne, 1991, vol. V, p. 52, no. 1592.
D. Wildenstein, Monet: Catalogue raisonné, Cologne, 1996, vol. III, p. 698, no. 1592 (illustrated in color).
Claude Monet: A Tribute to Daniel Wildenstein and Katia Granoff, exh. cat., Wildenstein & Co., Inc., New York, 2007, p. 114.
Exhibited
Paris, Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie., Claude Monet: Vues de la Tamise à Londres, May-June 1904, p. 10, no. 20.
Berlin, Paul Cassirer, VII. Jahrgang, I. Ausstellung, October 1904, no. 8.
Boston, Copley Hall, Loan Collection of Paintings by Claude Monet and Eleven Sculptures by Auguste Rodin, March 1905, p. 21, no. 55.
Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, Claude Monet: Memorial Exhibition, January-February 1927, no. 72.
Boston, Museum of Fine Arts (on loan), May-October 1936 and June-October 1962.
Ibaraki, Museum of Modern Art, Monet et ses amis, October-November 1988, p. 78, no. 34 (illustrated in color).

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Lot essay

“I adore London, it is a mass, an ensemble, and it is so simple. What I like most of all in London is the fog... I so love London!” (quoted in Monet's London: Artists' Reflections on the Thames 1859-1914, exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, Florida, 2005, p. 33). Claude Monet’s impassioned declaration is masterfully conveyed in Waterloo Bridge, effet de brouillard, one of the artist’s monumental, landmark series of London views, the Vues du Londres. Begun in London in 1899, and continued in two more stays in the city in 1900 and 1901, this series remains one of the artist’s greatest achievements, as he transformed the city and its famed fog-filled skies into ethereal, near abstract visions at once timeless and modern.

The largest body of paintings the artist had yet produced, numbering almost a hundred canvases, the London series is comprised of three principal subjects: Waterloo Bridge, Charing Cross Bridge, and the Houses of Parliament. This ambitious campaign pushed Monet to the extremes of his artistic powers, testing the fundamental Impressionist tenet of capturing the ephemeral, fleeting atmospheric effects of nature.“This goes further than painting,” the art critic Arsène Alexandre described of these works. “It’s an enchantment of atmosphere and light. London appeared fantastic in its fogs of dream, colored by the magic of the sun” (quoted in G. Seiberling, Monet in London, exh. cat., High Museum of Art, Atlanta, 1988, p. 35).

Of the three London motifs, the Waterloo Bridge series is the largest group (Wildenstein, vol. III, nos. 1555-1595). With their expansive skies and wide stretches of rippling water with shimmering light reflections, these works are among the most radical and varied, as well as being the most deeply poetic. Working from the Savoy Hotel, set on the banks of the Thames just behind the Strand, Monet could admire the heart of London stretched before him, the panorama bathed in the pale winter sun diffused through a dense atmosphere of mist mingled with coal smoke from domestic fires and industrial furnaces.

No, there’s no land more extraordinary for a painter”

Claude Monet

Looking to the right, Monet would have seen the Houses of Parliament rising impressively beyond the iron structure of Charing Cross railway bridge; to the left, the looming arches of Waterloo Bridge framed by a plethora of factory chimneys complete with bellowing plumes of smoke that lined the south banks of the river eastwards into the City and beyond. While it is above all a sense of modernity that Monet captured in the Charing Cross scenes, the newly constructed metal bridge with traffic rushing over infusing the paintings with a sense of modernity and dynamism, and in contrast to the solemn grandeur of the Houses of Parliament group, the Waterloo Bridge pictures present a pure meditation on the effects of color, light, and atmosphere. Of the forty-one canvases, over half are now housed in major museums. Chosen by Monet to feature in his critically acclaimed 1904 exhibition, Claude Monet: Vues de la Tamise à Londres at the Galerie Durand-Ruel, the present work is outstanding, creating through myriad layers of paint a harmonious, magical atmosphere that sets it among the finest of the series.

In Waterloo Bridge, effet de brouillard, Monet has pictured this eastward vista; the gently flowing waters of the river are traversed by the stone bridge that recedes toward the factory-lined south bank beyond. The rhythmic pattern of the cavernous vaults is reflected in the water, this sense of ephemeral movement echoed in the procession of omnibuses and carriages that speed atop the bridge, and the unfurling plumes of smoke that emerge from the just visible smokestacks in the background. The entire scene is cloaked in an ephemeral, evanescent mist that is illuminated by the invisible sun beyond, its veiled presence casting the city into an extraordinary iridescent blue light that shimmers and shifts in front of the viewer’s eyes. Monet has seized upon a passing moment during which the sunlight has just caught the decoration on the side of the bridge, suggesting that he painted this scene as the sun moved westwards, in the middle of the day or early afternoon.

In his quest to render an impression of the intangible realm, the “effet” of the fluctuating fog that lay before him, Monet was attempting the impossible. Indeed, only one other painting of the series, now in The State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, is similarly titled effet de brouillard, and likewise shows the artist achieve this singular aim. In the present work, Monet performed alchemy with brush and pigment, deploying the most nuanced flickers and strokes of color—rose pinks, soft oranges, violets, and turquoise dance amid the blues—to create a seemingly spontaneous yet carefully worked composition that has captured the vaporous quality of the atmosphere. A fleeting vista of industrial London is transformed into a mysterious and deeply contemplative evocation that transcends the bounds of time and place. “It’s a miracle,” Octave Mirbeau wrote of Monet’s extraordinary achievement in these paintings. “It’s almost a paradox that one can, with impasto on canvas, create impalpable matter, imprison the sun…to make shoot forth from this Empyrean atmosphere, such splendid fairylands of light. And yet, it’s not a miracle, it’s not a paradox: it’s the logical outcome of the art of M. Claude Monet” (op. cit., exh. cat., 1904,p. 8).

What I like most of all in London is the fog. Without the fog, London would not be a beautiful city. It’s the fog that gives it its magnificent breadth.”

Claude Monet

Waterloo Bridge, effet de brouillard was one of the earliest London paintings to enter an American collection when it was acquired from Paul Durand-Ruel in early 1905 by the pioneering Pulitzer Prize winning poet, Amy Lowell. Born in Brookline, Massachusetts, into a distinguished New England family—one of her brothers, Abbott Lawrence Lowell, was a president of Harvard University, another, Percival Lowell, was a famous astrologer—Lowell was fiercely independent, flouting convention as she pursued a career as a poet. She had a long term relationship with her secretary, a former actress, Ada Dwyer Russell, with whom she remained until her untimely death in 1925. Known for smoking cigars in public, she cut an eccentric figure. Counting among her friends the authors Thomas Hardy and D.H. Lawrence, she later went on to write an acclaimed biography of John Keats.

“God made me a business woman, and I made myself a poet,” Lowell famously quipped. Her first collection of poetry was published in 1912, a year before she became immersed in a radical new literary movement, Imagism. Based in London and led by Ezra Pound, with other proponents including Ford Madox Ford and Hilda Doolittle, Imagism was an avant-garde form of poetry that rejected the florid, verbose literary styles of the Romantics and the Victorians, to instead embrace simple, clear and precise language that could express vivid and exacting images. Not only did Lowell adopt this Imagist style, but she was driven by a fervent desire to bring this novel form of poetry back to America, supporting the publication and dissemination of their work across the Atlantic.

A month after Lowell acquired Waterloo Bridge, effet de brouillard in 1905 she loaned it to a landmark exhibition of Monet and Rodin, held at Boston’s Copley Hall, where it was shown together with almost a hundred other works by the artist. The seminal role that American collectors played in the support of Impressionism at this time can be seen in the number of Vues de Londres pictures that crossed the Atlantic at the very beginning of the 1900s. In October 1901, the Boston Herald announced that “Claude Monet, while in London last winter, painted no less than 15 pictures of Waterloo Bridge” (N. Norwood, ed., Monet’s Waterloo Bridge: Vision and Process, exh. cat., Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester, 2018, p. 19), a reflection of the keen interest Monet’s career held across the Atlantic. This publicity likely fueled the interest in the London works. From New York to Newport, by 1920 almost halfof the forty-one Waterloo Bridge works, as well as a large number of Charing Cross and Parliament paintings, had arrived in America, owned by now legendary names including the Havemeyers, Bertha and Potter Palmer, Martin A. Ryerson, as well as the Lowells.

Art is the desire of a man to express himself, to record the reactions of his personality to the world he lives in.”

Amy Lowell

Waterloo Bridge, effet de brouillard remained in the Lowell family for many years. It subsequently entered the collection of Lowell’s sister Elizabeth Lowell Putnam, a political activist, philanthropist, and pioneer in prenatal care, and her husband, a prominent Boston lawyer, William, before passing to their daughter Katharine Bundy and her husband Harvey H. Bundy. It was included as one of the seventy-nine works in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts’ large retrospective of the artist held the year after his death in 1927, and was loaned to the museum for a period during the summer months of 1936 and again in 1962.

Dedicated catalogue

Claude Monet (1840-1926) - Waterloo Bridge, effet de brouillard

19809-claude-monet-waterloo-bridge

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