CLAUDE MONET (1840-1926)
CLAUDE MONET (1840-1926)
CLAUDE MONET (1840-1926)
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CLAUDE MONET (1840-1926)
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On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED PRIVATE FRENCH COLLECTION
CLAUDE MONET (1840-1926)

La mare, effet de neige

CLAUDE MONET (1840-1926)
La mare, effet de neige
signed and dated 'Claude Monet 75' (lower left)
oil on canvas
23 7⁄8 x 32 1⁄8 in. (60.6 x 81.7 cm.)
Painted in Argenteuil in 1874-1875
The artist; sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 24 March 1875, lot 15.
Paul Durand-Ruel, Paris (acquired at the above sale).
Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie., Paris (acquired from the above, 25 August 1891).
Henri Vever, Paris (acquired from the above, 17 January 1893); sale, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, 1-2 February 1897, lot 85.
Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie. and Isaac Montaignac, Paris (acquired at the above sale).
Gottfried Holthusen, Hamburg (acquired from the above, 13 January 1898).
Richard Semmel, Berlin; sale, Frederik Muller & Cie., Amsterdam, 13 June 1933, lot 21 (as Neige à Argenteuil) (unsold).
Philippe Leary, Strasbourg and Paris.
By descent from the above to the present owners.

Please note that the present work is being offered for sale pursuant to a settlement agreement between the current owner and heirs of Richard Semmel. The settlement agreement resolves the dispute over ownership of the work and title will pass to the successful bidder.
M. Rostand, Quelques amateurs de l’époque impressionniste (thèse inédite de l’Ecole du Louvre), Paris, 1955, p. XVI.
M. Bodelsen, "Early Impressionist Sales 1874-1894 in the Light of Some Unpublished 'Procès-Verbaux'" in Burlington Magazine, June 1968, p. 335.
D. Wildenstein, Claude Monet: Biographie et catalogue raisonné, Lausanne, 1974, vol. I, p. 264, no. 350 (illustrated, p. 265).
R. Gordon and A. Forge, Monet, New York, 1983, p. 65 (illustrated).
C.S. Moffett, The New Painting, Impressionism, 1874-1886, exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1986, p. 269, no. 160.
D. Wildenstein, Monet: Catalogue raisonné, Cologne, 1996, vol. II, pp. 144-145, no. 350 (illustrated, p. 145).
Paris, 28 avenue de l’Opéra, 4ème exposition de peinture, April-May 1879, p. 12, no. 160.
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Emily Kaplan
Emily Kaplan Senior Vice President, Senior Specialist, Co-Head of 20th Century Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Claude Monet painted La mare, effet de neige in the winter of 1874-1875 in Argenteuil. The artist had lived with his family in this Parisian suburb since December 1871. The painting depicts a field that has been frosted with a delicate layer of snow. The plot of land is bordered by modest homes, the roofs of which have similarly been dusted with snow. A trio of silhouetted figures, dwarfed by bare-limbed trees, traverse the field. Monet employed a range of blue and white hues in order to convey this charming scene of snow and ice, which appears to glitter and gleam in the sunlight. According to Daniel Wildenstein, Monet observed this scene from the edge of the Bicheret stream—a subsidiary of the river Seine, which linked Argenteuil to the French capital.
La mare, effet de neige exemplifies Monet’s experiments with the Impressionist style in the mid-1870s. During this crucial period, the artist used increasingly loose brushwork and thick facture to convey the ephemeral, atmospheric effects of nature. Undeterred by the cold, Monet continued to observe the world around him throughout the unusually snowy winter of 1874-1875. In other works painted that season, Monet painted various forms of snow in Argenteuil—from gentle flurries (Wildenstein, no. 348; The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston) to heavy snow fall (Wildenstein, no. 356; Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris). In the present work, Monet covered his canvas with short daubs of paint to represent the tufts of fresh, white snow that have already begun to melt in the brilliant glow of daylight; linear strokes of blue indicate the long shadows cast by human figures and trees alike.
La mare, effet de neige was sold a few months later in an auction staged at the Hôtel Drouot in Paris. Monet organized this sale with his fellow Impressionist painters, Berthe Morisot, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Alfred Sisley, after the poor critical reception of the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874. At this sale, Paul Durand-Ruel, a dealer and champion of the Impressionists, purchased eighteen works of the seventy-three works for sale, including La mare, effet de neige. By 1893, the work had entered the collection of Henri Vever—one of the most important jewelry designers in fin-de-siècle France and a major art collector of Japanese prints and Impressionist pictures.
La mare, effet de neige was exhibited publicly for the first time four years after its execution, at the fourth Impressionist exhibition from 10 April to 11 May 1879. Monet was initially reluctant to participate in the exhibition, titled by Edgar Degas “4e exposition faite par un Groupe d’artistes Indépendants.” Monet’s wife, Camille, had given birth to their second son, Michel, in March 1878, but her health never fully recovered. Together with their close friends, Ernest and Alice Hoschedé, the Monet family had moved from Argenteuil to Vétheuil, a rural town sixty kilometers north-west of Paris. Deeply concerned for Camille and anxious about money, the artist expressed to several of his colleagues his need to sell paintings to support his growing household. Monet’s reluctance to lend works to the exhibition betrayed his lack of confidence about his most recent work, and a deep sensitivity to the negative criticisms he had received in previous exhibitions. As the artist wrote to his friend and patron, the Doctor Georges de Belio, in March 1879, “I am giving up the struggle as well as all hope; I don’t have the strength to work anymore under these conditions. I hear that my friends are preparing a new exhibition this year; I renounce taking part in it, having not done anything that is worth being shown” (quoted in R. Pickvance, “Contemporary Popularity and Posthumous Neglect,” The New Painting: Impressionism, 1874-1886, exh. cat., The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1986, p. 246).
Gustave Caillebotte—one of the youngest and wealthiest members of the Impressionist group, who largely spearhead the organization of the 1879 exhibition—attempted to convince Monet to join. Monet was widely viewed, by critics and supporters alike, as one of the most prominent members of the new avant-garde group; for Caillebotte, Monet’s participation in the exhibition was an important endorsement and harbinger of its success. Of the core group of Impressionist painters, only Caillebotte, Mary Cassatt, Edgar Degas, Camille Pissarro and newcomer Paul Gauguin had agreed to join. Conversely, Renoir decided to submit his work to the official Salon instead, while Sisley, Paul Cézanne and Berthe Morisot declined to participate for various reasons. Caillebotte assured Monet that he would assist him in gathering works to exhibit, offering to contact Monet’s patrons and to convince them to lend their works to the exhibition; he wrote, “Try not to discourage yourself like that. Since you are not working, come to Paris, you have time to collect all the possible pictures…I will take care of everything” (quoted in ibid, pp. 247-248). By the end of March, Monet had acquiesced to Caillebotte; as he admitted to the collector and pâtissier Eugène Murer, “It is only reluctantly and in order not to be thought a slacker that I have relented” (quoted in ibid., p. 248).
Monet was ultimately represented in the “4e exposition faite par un Groupe d’artistes Indépendants” by twenty-nine canvases, largely gathered from private collections by Caillebotte. This group, which represented the full range of Monet’s mature oeuvre, included four works painted in Argenteuil in 1875. Three of the Argenteuil pictures were winter landscapes—including the present work, La mare, effet de neige, then owned by Durand-Ruel. Monet’s contributions were hung in the fifth and final room of the exhibition, alongside twenty-two paintings and an assortment of works on paper by Pissarro. Henry Havard, writing in Le Siècle in April 1879, described this as the climax of the exhibition: “The last room belongs to the high priests of Impressionism. Monet and Pissaro [sic] reign there as masters.” Havard continued, however, by expressing his lack of understanding of the Impressionist approach to nature: “I confess humbly, I do not see nature as they do, never having seen these skies fluffy with pink cotton, these opaque and moiré waters, this multi-colored foliage. Maybe they do exist. I do not know them” (quoted in ibid., p. 286).
Unlike the previous installations, the fourth Impressionist exhibition was staged in a modern apartment on the first floor of 28 avenue de l’Opéra. This broad new avenue, which led from the Musée du Louvre to the Opéra Garnier, was part of Baron Haussmann’s reimagining of Paris; the construction of the central thoroughfare had only been completed two years prior, in 1877. Several scholars such as the art historian Ronald Pickvance have discovered evidence that this new building that hosted the exhibition was wired for electricity—a radical new technology, and means of viewing art, in the famed City of Light (ibid., p. 263, note 39).
Despite the fact that Monet was well represented in the fourth Impressionist exhibition, and his work given a prime placement, the “high priest of Impressionism” never visited Paris during its run. At the conclusion of the exhibition, Caillebotte wrote to Monet hailing its success, noting that the show had been attended by over 15,400 visitors—a significant increase from the 4000 who had attended the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874. Caillebotte also sent Monet at least thirty press clippings, along with the following note: “I regret that you could not follow the show from close at hand. But for the painters and for the public, despite the malevolence of the press, we have achieved much. Manet himself is beginning to see that he has taken the wrong road. Courage then!” (quoted in ibid., p. 261).
Caillebotte’s remark about the press notwithstanding, Monet received significant praise from several art critics. His most enthusiastic supporter was undoubtedly Edmond Renoir, the younger brother of Monet’s former comrade, Pierre-Auguste, who wrote in La Presse:
“Claude Monet has submitted some thirty canvases to the Impressionist exhibition. This artist is far from being an unknown. He has exhibited fairly regularly since 1866, and the official Salon has accepted his work many times…. He has found his own path, the landscape, and especially the water’s edge. Whether of the sea or of a river, he renders their picturesque and poetic aspect with a sweetness, charm and tonal intensity that place him unquestionably in the top rank of painters in the modern landscape school” (quoted in ibid., p. 286).
In the early 1930s, the present work belonged to Richard Semmel (1875-1950), a German textile manufacturer, who lived in Berlin with his wife, Clara née Brück (1879-1945). In 1933, after the National Socialist government came to power, Semmel was increasingly under pressure, both for his Jewish background and for his involvement in the Deutsche Demokratische Partei (German Democratic Party). The Semmels fled Germany soon after, moving first to Amsterdam. Two auctions of their art collection, which included notable Impressionist and Old Master paintings, were held at Frederik Muller & Cie in June and November 1933, but with mixed results. Their villa in Berlin-Dahlem was sold under duress in their absence in 1934 and Richard’s business holdings in Germany were also targeted by punitive measures. Fearing the occupation of The Netherlands in 1940, the Semmels fled again, this time to New York, where they lived from 1941 onwards. It was subsequently acquired by Philippe Leary, and has remained in the family collection for around seventy years.

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