EDOUARD MANET (1832-1883)
EDOUARD MANET (1832-1883)
EDOUARD MANET (1832-1883)
EDOUARD MANET (1832-1883)
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On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more Visionary: The Paul G. Allen Collection
EDOUARD MANET (1832-1883)

Le Grand Canal à Venise

EDOUARD MANET (1832-1883)
Le Grand Canal à Venise
signed ‘Manet’ (lower left)
oil on canvas
22 5/8 x 18 7/8 in. (57.5 x 47.9 cm.)
Painted in fall 1874
Jean-Baptiste Faure, Paris (acquired from the artist, January 1875).
Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie., Paris (acquired from the above, 10 August 1906).
Mr. and Mrs. William H. and Ethel Crocker, Hillsborough, California (acquired from the above, 10 August 1906, then by descent until at least 1953).
Provident Security Co., San Francisco (by 1966, until at least 1977).
Private collection (by 1990).
Marc de Montebello, New York (acquired from the above, July 1993).
Private collection (1993).
Acquired by the late owner, 15 February 2000.
J.L., "Exposition d'oeuvres de Manet chez Durand-Ruel" in La chronique des arts et de la curiosité, 12 December 1896, no. 39, p. 367.
R. Bouyer, "Les Arts" in L'Image, 1897, p. 59.
A. Proust, "Edouard Manet, Inedit" in La revue blanche, February 1897, vol. XII, p. 203 (dated 1875).
Catalogue de la Collection Faure, Paris, 1902, no. 39.
T. Duret, Histoire d'Edouard Manet et de son oeuvre, Paris, 1902, p. 108, no. 205 (illustrated).
F. Wedmore, "Manet in Bond Street" in The Standard, 15 June 1906.
Criticus, "A Realist, a Seer and Others" in The Family Herald, 30 June 1906.
J. Meier-Graefe, Edouard Manet, Munich, 1912, p. 314.
A. Proust, Edouard Manet: Souvenirs, Paris, 1913, p. 166, no. 79 (dated 1875).
E. Waldmann, Edouard Manet, Berlin, 1923, p. 59 (illustrated; dated 1875 and with incorrect provenance).
J.-E. Blanche, Manet, Paris, 1924 (illustrated, pl. 31; dated 1875).
E. Moreau-Nélaton, Manet raconté par lui-même, Paris, 1926, vol. 2 (illustrated, fig. 194).
A. Tabarant, Manet: Histoire catalographique, Paris, 1931, no. 239 (illustrated).
P. Colin, Edouard Manet, Paris, 1932, pp. 42-43.
P. Jamot and G. Wildenstein, Manet, Paris, 1932, vol. I, p. 149, no. 246 (illustrated, vol. II, p. 138, fig. 272).
M. Florisoone, Manet, Monaco, 1947, p. 61 (illustrated).
A. Tabarant, Manet et ses oeuvres, Paris, 1947, p. 610, no. 243 (illustrated).
G. Bataille, Manet, Lausanne, 1955, p. 109.
J. Richardson, Edouard Manet: Paintings and Drawings, London, 1958, p. 126 (illustrated, pl. 50).
M. Venturi and S. Orienti, L'opera pittorica di Edouard Manet, Milan, 1967, p. 105, no. 207 (illustrated; illustrated again in color, pl. XXXIV; dated 1875).
G. Bazin, Edouard Manet, Milan, 1972, p. 79 (illustrated; dated 1875).
D. Rouart and D. Wildenstein, Edouard Manet: Catalogue raisonné, peintures, Paris, 1975, vol. I, p. 192, no. 230 (illustrated, p. 193; illustrated again in color, p. 8; dated 1875).
A.C. Hanson, Manet and the Modern Tradition, London, 1977, p. 173 (illustrated, fig. 126; titled Blue Venice).
K. Adler, Manet, Oxford, 1986, p. 177 (titled Blue Venice and with incorrect provenance).
J. Wilson-Bareau, "L'année impressionniste de Manet: Argenteuil et Venise en 1874" in Revue de l'art, 1989, no. 86, p. 30 (illustrated, fig. 5; titled Vue de Venise).
P. Rylands, "Manet: Venice" in The Burlington Magazine, July 2013, vol. 155, no. 1324, pp. 510-512 (illustrated in color, p. 510, fig. 71).
Paris, Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie., Oeuvres de Manet, 1896.
Paris, Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie., Les Manet de la Collection Faure, March 1906, p. 12, no. 19 (dated 1875).
London, Sulley's, Paintings by Manet in the Collection of M. Faure of Paris, June 1906, no. 17 (dated 1875).
San Francisco, The California Palace of the Legion of Honor, Exhibition of French Painting from the Fifteenth Century to the Present Day, June-July 1934, p. 55, no. 119 (illustrated).
Kansas City, William Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art, Mary Atkins Museum, Exhibition French Impressionist Landscape Painting, November-December 1936, p. 5, no. 18.
New York, Wildenstein & Co. Inc., Edouard Manet, March-April 1937, p. 35, no. 21 (illustrated, p. 67; dated circa 1874).
San Francisco Museum of Art, Contemporary Art: Paintings, Watercolors and Sculptures Owned in the San Francisco Bay Region, Fifth Anniversary Exhibition, January-February 1940, p. 18, no. 19 (illustrated).
San Francisco, M.H. de Young Museum, Art of the United Nations, May-June 1945, p. 5.
Vancouver Art Gallery, The French Impressionists, March-April 1953, p. 25, no. 60 (illustrated, p. 50).
New Haven, Yale University Art Gallery, Pictures Collected by Yale Alumni, May-June 1956, no. 73 (illustrated).
Philadelphia Museum of Art and The Art Institute of Chicago, Edouard Manet, November 1966-February 1967, p. 145, no. 126 (illustrated; dated 1875).
New York, Wildenstein & Co. Inc., One-Hundred Years of Impressionism: A Tribute to Durand-Ruel, for the Benefit of the New York University Art Collection, April-May 1970, no. 31 (illustrated; dated 1875).
Paris, Galeries nationales du Grand Palais and New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Manet, April-November 1983, pp. 373-375, no. 147 (illustrated in color; dated 1875).
The Art Institute of Chicago, Manet and the Sea, October 2003-January 2004, p. 85 (illustrated in color, p. 152, pl. 65).
Seattle, Experience Music Project, DoubleTake: From Monet to Lichtenstein, April 2006-January 2007, pp. 7 and 21 (illustrated in color).
Basel, Fondation Beyeler, Venice: From Canaletto and Turner to Monet, September 2008-February 2009, p. 146 (illustrated in color).
Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia, Manet: Return to Venice, April-August 2013, p. 201, no. 80 (illustrated in color, p. 76, fig. 56; illustrated again in color, p. 195; detail illustrated in color on the divider).
Oregon, Portland Art Museum; Washington, D.C., The Phillips Collection; Minneapolis Institute of Arts; New Orleans Museum of Art and Seattle Art Museum, Seeing Nature: Landscape Masterworks from the Paul G. Allen Family Collection, October 2015-May 2017, pp. 25 and 66 (illustrated in color, p. 67).
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Max Carter
Max Carter Vice Chairman, 20th and 21st Century Art, Americas

Lot Essay

A notable arrival was documented in Venice’s Gazzetta di Venezia on 13 September 1874. The “Signori Manet”—Edouard Manet and his wife, Suzanne Leenhoff—had disembarked in the famed floating city. After a successful sale of one of his works to a wealthy American collector, Manet was able to leave Paris and journey to Venice. There, the couple was joined by the artist’s friend, James Tissot, who had relocated to London during the Franco-Prussian War. Taking rooms in the Grand Hotel, situated near the Piazza San Marco, they spent around a month in the city.
On this, Manet’s second and final visit to La Serenissima, he painted just two works, both titled Le Grand Canal à Venise (Wildenstein, nos. 230 and 231). The present painting is one of this rare and iconic pair—the other, which was acquired by Tissot before Louisine Havemeyer, is now held in the Shelburne Museum, Vermont. In both of these works, Manet honed in on a small section of the Grand Canal—the central, bustling artery of the mirage-like city. With these closely cropped vistas, he not only captured the spectacular effects of light upon the water for which the city is so revered, but also reveled in the dynamic interplay of architecture and human activity within this timeless setting.
Two gondolas intersect the vista of the present work, the perfectly observed tip of the vessel on the left entering into a striking visual dialogue with the soaring, striped palli, and the undulating dome of the church of Santa Maria della Salute in the distance. Standing opposite the soft pink and pearlescent colored palazzi, a single figure, the gondolier, slowly paddles into the painting. Rendered with Manet’s signature instinctive brushstrokes and passages of pure, unmixed color, the painting demonstrates the same fidelity to compositional structure that defines so much of Manet’s work. While seemingly a snapshot of daily life on the Grand Canal, this scene is anything but unplanned, each element of the dynamic and carefully layered composition existing in perfect accord.
Le Grand Canal à Venise stands as Manet’s pictorial response to Venice, a city so steeped in art historical heritage that it has by turn beguiled, inspired, overwhelmed and daunted artists throughout time. Entering into a lineage that included Canaletto, Francesco Guardi, J.M.W. Turner, and James McNeill Whistler, Manet’s two depictions of the city at once reference those that had gone before him, while being completely of his time.
Perhaps no other artist was so adept at mining the art of the past and marrying the grandeur, simplicity and, on occasion, motifs of the old masters, with definitively modern subjects and handling. Manet had scandalized audiences with his art since the early 1860s, taking scenes from contemporary Paris and translating these with his penetrating eye and daring, direct style. Manet applied this same artistic sensibility to his depictions of Venice. Taking a view so well-known as to verge on kitsch—captured ad infinitum both in the annals of art history as well as in everyday ephemera—Manet transformed the Grand Canal into a radically executed scene that stood at the forefront of modern painting.
Shortly before he left for Venice in the autumn of 1874, Manet had spent a productive summer at his family home in Gennevilliers, a small town outside Paris situated across the Seine from Argenteuil. There, the artist frequently saw Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, both of whom had returned to the picturesque suburb following the landmark First Impressionist exhibition that they had staged in Paris in the spring—though notably, Manet, the oft-regarded leader of the “New Painting”, had declined to exhibit with his younger colleagues. It was in and around Argenteuil, where a few years earlier, Manet had helped Monet secure a house to rent, that the artists painted together, sharing thoughts, ideas, and motifs.
This summer marked the moment that Manet came the closest to espousing the essential tenets of the newly named Impressionism. He had begun to work outside in the years prior to this summer, his palette gradually lightening as he increasingly sought to capture the effects of light and atmosphere upon his scenes of modernity. Yet, as John Rewald has written, “It was in Argenteuil where he watched Monet paint, that Manet was definitely convinced to work out-of-doors” (The History of Impressionism, 1973, p. 341). A new, brightly colored palette came to dominate his work of this period. He pictured scenes of suburban leisure en plein air, as well as depictions of Monet at work on his studio boat and at ease with his family in their garden, using a similar painterly handling and tonality as his Impressionist friends.
Like Monet, it was to scenes of boating in and around the Seine that Manet was primarily drawn. In works such as Bords de la Seine à Argenteuil (Wildenstein, no. 220; The Courtauld, London) and Argenteuil (Wildenstein, no. 221; Musée des Beaux-Arts, Tournai)—“perhaps the most truly Impressionist work of his career” (quoted in Manet, 1832-1883, exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1983, p. 353)—Manet masterfully captured the subtle, shimmering effects of light across the water as well as his protagonists.
Yet, the very fact that this work is seen as the most Impressionist work of Manet’s oeuvre demonstrates the complexities that govern his relationship to this movement. Unlike Monet or Renoir’s work at around this time, the figure remains steadfastly at the heart of Manet’s works. In Argenteuil, the nuanced, yet unknowable tension that seems to define the couple’s poses and the woman’s inscrutable gaze imparts a sense of narrative that is often absent in the Impressionists’ renderings of similar subjects. This intensity is also imparted thanks to Manet’s rigorous compositional structure, which he constructs using thick, resolute brushstrokes—unlike the ever lighter, shorter marks of his peers. A scaffold of intersecting verticals and horizontals demarcates this seemingly spontaneous view of life on the banks of the Seine, reflecting the fact that the artist likely finished it in his studio, rather than en plein air.
Perhaps it was the pictorial results of this summer spent near the sun-dappled banks of the Seine, amid boats and pleasure seekers—as well as his Impressionist friends—that encouraged Manet to visit Venice not long after. Le Grand Canal à Venise and its pendant piece of the same name appear to show Manet building on his recent developments. He employed the same high keyed, bold palette used to great effect in the depiction of the water and reflections of the luminous blue lagoon. As Anne Coffin Hanson has summarized, “During his stay at Argenteuil in the summer of 1874, Manet had been fascinated by the shimmering river under the open sky. In his scenes of Venice he again used the same lively brush strokes, the same contrast of light, shadow, and reflection. He continued as well his intense, unvaried colors and his strong blacks, creating a sunlit atmosphere which surrounds his forms but does not dissolve them” (Edouard Manet, 1832-1883, exh. cat., Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1966, p. 145).
It could also have been a sense of rivalry that spurred Manet to tackle Venice, a place where effects of light and color—the predominant Impressionist concerns—dominate perhaps more than any other. It seems that Monet—whom Manet had once described as the “Raphael of the water”—was not far from Manet’s mind when he captured the luminous blue waters of the lagoon in the present work (quoted in Manet and the Sea, exh. cat., Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2004, p. 206). Manet’s name had once again been confused with Monet’s by critics reacting to the First Impressionist exhibition—a device purposefully employed to enact a stinging critique of the former’s work. “M. Monet is establishing a place for himself while his near homonym remains stationary,” one writer remarked (quoted in B. Archer Brombert, Edouard Manet: Rebel in a Frock Coat, Boston, 1996, p. 354). Nowhere could an artist better hone their skills at the depiction of water than Venice, and perhaps Manet’s decision to paint there was in part spurred on by his need to prove that he too could master this most ephemeral of motifs.
Much had changed in Manet’s life by the time of his second visit to Venice. Just over two decades earlier, in 1853, he had made his first trip to Italy as a young student, while in the studio of Thomas Couture. Traveling with his brother, Eugène, Manet had arrived in a city under Austrian rule. At this time, Manet was studying and making copies of the work of the Old Masters. Titian in particular would play an important role in Manet’s work, the Venus of Urbino serving as a precursor for his notorious Olympia (Wildenstein, no. 69). Returning again in 1874, the city was now part of a unified Italy and Manet had established himself at the forefront of contemporary painting in Paris. No longer did he need to study the work of the past on this trip, but sought subjects of daily life on the city’s busy waterways as the subjects for his art.
Though little specific detail of Manet’s activities during his 1874 trip exists, the painter, Charles Toché, who had met the artist by chance in the Caffé Florian on the Piazza San Marco, and spent time with the artist for the duration of his stay, provided invaluable descriptions of the artist and his time in the city. Ambroise Vollard later recorded his recollections. “In Venice I used to go and join [Manet] almost every day. The lagoons, the palaces, the old houses, scaled and mellowed by time, offered him an inexhaustible variety of subjects. But his preference was for out-of-the-way corners. I asked him if I might follow him in my gondola. ‘As much as you like,’ he told me. ‘When I am working, I pay no attention to anything but my subject’” (quoted in exh. cat., op. cit., 1983, p. 374).
From his reminiscences, it appears that Toché was present at the time Manet began Le Grand Canal à Venise, his words providing a fascinating insight into the conception of this work. “I shall not forget Manet’s enthusiasm for the motif,” he recalled, “the white marble staircase against the faded pink bricks of the façade, and the cadmium and greens of the basements. Oscillations of light and shade made by the passing barges in the rough water that drew from him the exclamation, ‘Champagne-bottle ends floating!’ Through the row of gigantic twisted posts, blue and white, one saw the domes of the incomparable Salute, dear to Guardi. ‘I shall put in a gondola,’ cried Manet, ‘steered by a boatman in a pink shirt, with an orange scarf—one of those fine chaps like a Moor of Granada’” (ibid., pp. 374-375).
The low, water-level view of this bustling scene suggests that Manet painted it from a gondola. Louisine Havemeyer, who acquired the pendant Le Grand Canal à Venise from the artist’s travel companion James Tissot, described how Manet had finished her canvas in situ, “He had just decided to give it up and return home to Paris. On his last afternoon in Venice, he took a fairly small canvas and went out on the Grand Canal just to make a sketch to recall the visit; he told me he was so pleased with the result of his afternoon’s work that he decided to remain over a day and finish it” (ibid., p. 375). However, as with so many of his works that appear to be painted en plein air, Manet likely amended and finished the painting in his studio—as the pentimenti of the domes of the Salute suggest.
Just over thirty years later, Monet arrived for the first and only time in Venice—a place which at first he declared “too beautiful to be painted” (quoted in J. Pissarro, Monet and the Mediterranean, exh. cat., Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, 1997, p. 49). Of the thirty-seven depictions of the city that he painted, a small series of six canvases render a closely related view to that which Manet had portrayed in Le Grand Canal à Venise. Monet painted these canvases from the steps of the Palazzo Barbaro—the same ones that can be seen in the present work—where he was staying, picturing the Grand Canal, palli and the Salute from water level, as his predecessor had done before him.
As such, Le Grand Canal à Venise forms part of the important dialogue that exists between Manet and Monet. Manet was a crucial supporter and benefactor of Monet during the earlier years of his career. In 1869, he had invited the younger artist to join the avant-garde group of artists and writers who gathered in the Café de Guerbois. These meetings formed a crucible for the development of Impressionism. Manet’s technical innovations and subversive subject matter were of great importance to the younger Monet. Later, in the 1870s, it was Monet’s vitality and painterly instinctiveness that would prove an important example to Manet. Together, both artists’ depictions of Venice tell of a lifelong admiration for each other, offering an insight into the lives and careers of these two great innovators of Modernism.
Le Grand Canal à Venise was first acquired by one of Manet’s most important collectors, the opera singer, Jean-Baptiste Faure. Faure had made his debut at the Paris Opéra in 1861. Over the course of his life, he was widely renowned, performing in numerous roles. Just as prolific as his performances was his desire to collect modern art. He had initially acquired a large collection of Barbizon school works, which he dispersed in the early 1870s when he discovered the work of Manet and the Impressionists. From this time onwards, Faure became the most important collector of Manet’s work—at one point he owned sixty-seven pieces by the artist, including Le déjeuner sur l’herbe and Le Bon Bock (Wildenstein, nos. 67 and 186). He also posed for the artist on a few occasions, including Portrait de Faure dans le rôle d’Hamlet (no. 257).
This painting crossed the Atlantic in 1906, when it was acquired by the California-based banker and his wife, Mr. and Mrs. William H. and Ethel Crocker. The Crocker family had made their fortune in the creation of the Transcontinental Railroad. Ethel was a key patron of Impressionism on the west coast at this time, introducing the work of Manet, Monet, Camille Pissarro, Paul Cezanne, Edgar Degas and others to audiences in and around San Francisco.

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