CLAUDE MONET (1840-1926)
CLAUDE MONET (1840-1926)
CLAUDE MONET (1840-1926)
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PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT PRIVATE FRENCH COLLECTION
CLAUDE MONET (1840-1926)

Champ d'avoine et de coquelicots

Details
CLAUDE MONET (1840-1926)
Champ d'avoine et de coquelicots
signed and dated 'Claude Monet 90' (lower right)
oil on canvas
25 5⁄8 x 36 1⁄4 in. (65 x 92.1 cm.)
Painted in Giverny in 1890
Provenance
Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie., Paris (acquired from the artist, 9 May 1891, until at least 1913).
Private collection, France (circa 1914, and then by descent).
By descent from the above to the present owner.
Literature
J. Leclercq, "Petites expositions, Galerie Durand-Ruel" in La chronique des arts et de la curiosité, 15 April 1899, no. 15, p. 131.
L. de Saint-Valéry, "Paysages de Cl. Monet et de Renoir" in La revue de Beaux-Arts, 31 May 1908, p. 2.
R. Koechlin, "Claude Monet" in Art et Décoration, February 1927, p. 42 (illustrated).
D. Wildenstein, Claude Monet: Biographie et catalogue raisonné, Lausanne, 1979, vol. III, p. 134, no. 1256 (illustrated, p. 135).
D. Wildenstein, Monet: Catalogue raisonné, Cologne, 1996, vol. III, p. 479, no. 1256 (illustrated).
Exhibited
Paris, Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie., Monet, 1891, no. 18.
Paris, Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie., Monet, Pissarro, Renoir et Sisley, April 1899, p. 6, no. 31.
The Manchester City Art Gallery, Modern French Paintings, 1907-1908, p. 18, no. 77 (titled In the Fields).
Paris, Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie., Paysages par Claude Monet et Renoir, May-June 1908, no. 9.
Paris, Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie., Claude Monet, March 1914, no. 26 (titled Champ d'avoine).

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Lot Essay

An oat field filled with poppies stretching as far as the eye can see is the subject of Claude Monet’s idyllic Champ d’avoine et de coquelicots, painted in the summer of 1890. This glorious rural spectacle is one of five works of the same subject, produced at a pivotal time during which the artist fully embraced his seminal serial method, working to capture ephemeral pictorial effects of different light and weather conditions upon the same motif (Wildenstein, nos. 1256-1260). It was shortly after he completed this group that the annual harvest began, and, inspired by the grainstacks that emerged on the landscape, he commenced his great Meules series.
Capturing the hazy light of a warm summer’s day, Champ d’avoine et de coquelicots was painted near the artist’s home in Giverny. The exact spot from which Monet captured this scene was a flat plateau north of the village, at the edge of the woods known as La Réserve and Le Gros Chêne, looking east. These trees ascend on the far right of the canvas, their dark, verdant foliage casting cool shadows across the panoramic red-flecked field. In the middle-distance another bank of trees offered Monet the chance to employ a different palette, this time using strokes of delicate lilacs and soft green tones to convey the amorphous form of the copse, which appears as if shimmering beyond a haze of heat. The protagonist of this scene, however, is the oat field filled with poppies, painted with jewel-like tones of red, orange, and emerald green. Translating this vista into a rich tapestry of impastoed color, Monet has turned it into a timeless evocation of the rural French countryside.
Monet had first settled in Giverny in the spring of 1883. In search of a permanent base after years of living a peripatetic lifestyle, this small village, set on the confluence of the Seine and the river Epte, and far removed from the encroaching modernization that had transformed many of the towns and villages leading out of Paris, provided the perfect situation for the artist and his family. Their home, Le Pressoir, the now-famed pink-stuccoed and green-shuttered farmhouse, was flanked by a kitchen garden and an orchard. Not long after the artist and his family moved in, he began planting the gardens, ensuring that “there would be flowers to paint on rainy days” (Monet quoted in J. Wood, Monet’s Years at Giverny: Beyond Impressionism, exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1978, p. 18).
During the first five years that he lived at Giverny, Monet tirelessly explored the surrounding terrain, setting out with his canvases each day at dawn, walking over hills and through valleys, in marshes and meadows, among streams and poplars. He painted around the banks of the Seine, winding country roads and houses nestled into the rolling hills, and vast fields that stretch from one edge of the canvas to the other, offering tangible evidence of the land’s fertility and abundance. “This was the landscape he came to know most intimately,” James Wood has written, “and its accessibility made possible the extended serial treatment that is the underlying structure for the work of the entire Giverny period” (ibid., p. 11).
Though Monet was immediately captivated by his new surroundings—he proclaimed he was “certain of never finding a better situation or more beautiful countryside”—he spent a large portion of the next seven years traveling around the country, as well as venturing abroad, in the pursuit of his art (quoted in P.H. Tucker, Claude Monet: Life and Art, New Haven, 1995, p. 175).
In the late summer of 1890, however, Monet became completely engrossed by Giverny. Following the successes of 1889—his critically acclaimed joint exhibition with Auguste Rodin, the triumph of his campaign to acquire Edouard Manet’s notorious Olympia for the state, as well as his early Meule works and Creuse Valley paintings—Monet had barely picked up his brushes until this summer. Much of June and July had also been mired by incessant rain. When the weather finally cleared, it was to fields of oats, hay and poppies that Monet was inexorably drawn.
In the first group of works, Monet painted a nearby meadow at Les Essarts (Wildenstein, nos. 1251-1254), depicting another abundantly flowering poppy field as an expansive horizontal band that is echoed by the bordering line of trees, and the plane of sky above. Next, Monet turned to the vista depicted in the present work and the accompanying four canvases, capturing this same view with subtle differences in color, light and tone depending on the time of day. All human presence has been completely expunged. As a result, it is the nuanced, masterfully observed play of light and the colors of the landscape that come to the fore—the simple, bucolic subject matter becomes a pretext for these formal explorations. “While reduced in visual incident,” Paul Hayes Tucker has written of these works, “they are rigorously painted, suggesting that Monet had become more concerned not only with overall atmospheric effects…but also with emphasizing the decorative, tapestry-like qualities that painting can achieve. For above all, these canvases rely on their striking combination of artifice and observation, pattern and materiality, which harks back to the Creuse Valley canvases and most particularly to the Grainstack pictures of 1888-1889” (Monet in the ‘90s: The Series Paintings, exh. cat., The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1989, p. 72).
These expansive fields were by no means a novel subject in Monet’s art at this time—he had frequently painted them while working in and around Giverny throughout the 1880s. Yet, in the majority of these works, he depicted the fields either before they had been sown, or after they had been harvested or cut. In addition, he frequently pictured family members in these rural scenes. In these 1890 summertime paintings, therefore, Monet was picturing his surroundings in their most abundant, elemental form, emphasizing the inherently agrarian character of this area of France. Not only was he reacquainting himself with the pastoral beauty of Giverny, but, with these works, he firmly furthered his legacy as the key artist of rural France.
The serial approach that Monet employed in Champ d’avoine et de coquelicots and the accompanying series continued at pace throughout the autumn. Indeed, these works mark the start of a decade which would be defined by the artist’s great series: the Meules, Peupliers, Rouen cathédrale, and Les matinées sur la Seine. At the end of August, as the harvest began, grainstacks began to appear in the fields across the landscape. Monet put his poppy and oat field paintings aside and began to portray these quotidian yet majestic domes, repeatedly returning to the same scene, where he masterfully captured the changing atmospheric effects. He wrote to Gustave Geffroy on 7 October 1890, “I am grinding away, bent on a series of different effects, but at this time of year, the sun goes down so quickly that I cannot keep up with it… I am becoming a very slow worker, which depresses me, but the further I go, the more I understand that it is imperative to work a great deal to achieve what I seek: ‘instantaneity,’ above all…the same light present everywhere and more than ever easy things that come in a single stroke disgust me. In the end, I am excited by the need to render what I feel and vow to live on not too unproductively because it seems to me that I will make progress” (exh. cat., op. cit., 1989, p. 30).
In 1891, Monet exhibited his most recent Meule paintings at Galerie Durand-Ruel. In addition to the haystack works, he included four of his 1890 poppy field paintings, including the present work. “Given the importance of the exhibition—it was the first he had had in two years—Monet clearly felt that these pictures could complement the Grainstacks and sustain the reputation he had established for himself” (exh. cat., op. cit., 1989, p. 72). Durand-Ruel acquired Champ d’avoine et de coquelicots from the artist on 9 May 1891. In 1914, it was acquired by a collector, in whose family it has remained until this day.

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