Claude Monet (1840-1926)

Charing Cross Bridge

Claude Monet (1840-1926)
Monet, C.
Charing Cross Bridge
stamped with signature 'Claude Monet' (Lugt 1819b; lower left)
oil on canvas
25 x 31 in. (65.4 x 80.5 cm.)
Painted circa 1900
James Butler (acquired from the artist, circa 1921).
Alex Maguy, Paris.
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1974.
D. Wildenstein, Claude Monet, Biographie et Catalogue raisonn, Lausanne, 1985, vol. IV (Peintures: 1899-1926), p. 168, no. 1550 (illustrated, p. 169).
D. Wildenstein, Claude Monet, Catalogue raisonn, Cologne, 1996, vol. III (Nos. 969-1595), p. 670, no. 1550 (illustrated).

Lot Essay

As an artist fascinated with subtle atmospheric effects, Monet found the city of London, with its mist and fog, a place of great opportunity. The critic Gustave Geffroy wrote about this time:

"When Claude Monet was working on his views of the Thames in 1900, Clemenceau and I went to visit him, and the three of us spent a few days seeing the city...But the painter never neglected his work, and gave it whatever time it required. Several times we saw him set up on the balcony of his room overlooking the Thames - Charing Cross Bridge on his right, Waterloo Bridge on his left...In front of us the Thames rolled its waves, almost invisible in the fog. A boat passed like a ghost. The bridges were barely discernible in that space, and on them an all-but-imperceptible movement gave light to the mist's opacity: trains passing each other on Charing Cross Bridge, buses streaming across Waterloo Bridge, wafts of smoke that soon disappeared into the thick and livid vastness. It was an awe-inspiring, solemn, and gloomy spectacle...One could almost believe that everything was about to vanish, disappear into that colourless obscurity (G. Geffroy, Monet: Sa Vie, Son Oeuvre, Monet: a Retrospective, New York, 1985, pp. 218-219).

Monet's views of the River Thames from the balcony of his sixth-floor room at the Savoy Hotel inspired him to produce his largest and most impressive series of works. Monet worked in London during the winters of 1899, 1900, and 1901. Although he completed twelve views of Charing Cross and Waterloo Bridges in 1899 and 1900 while he was in England, he did not finish the remaining eighty canvases until 1904. Monet worked on the canvases at his studio in Giverny for three years following his visits to London and would work on as many canvases as he could in one sitting, keeping them constantly before him. He would alter the tonality, change the emphasis, vary smoke, clouds and reflections to create both a chromatic harmony within each work and to link each individual painting with the others in the series.

The final result of these efforts is a series of works filled with diffused light and thick, rich atmosphere. In this view of Charing Cross Bridge, the evanescent effects of light and atmosphere blur the silhouette of the bridge, evoking an eerie illusion. The lightly blended pastel colors suggest the instability of the fog and the opacity of the paints evoke translucent, shimmering mist.

Gustav Kahn wrote about the series:

"The Charing Cross Bridge series numbers the fewest paintings. The motif for it is given in an airy vision of the river, where one seems to see light passing, mobile and brief, the fragile shades of dawn. The water is like a mirror on which the vaporous shadows chase and succeed one another - fragile, slow harmonies, like those of Schumann, if you will, or of Faure...Like another strain in the symphony, the fog blurs a part of the bridge, consumes it, bites the green reflection that cuts the water like a rigid bar. Here the bridges of the bar cast diffuse shadows, like great, moving, trembling leaves on the green water."(G. Kahn, "L'Exposition de Claude Monet," Gazette des Beaux-Arts, Paris, 1 July 1904).

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