CLAUDE MONET (1840-1926)
CLAUDE MONET (1840-1926)

Chemin creux, Pourville

CLAUDE MONET (1840-1926)
Chemin creux, Pourville
signed ‘Claude Monet’ (lower right)
pastel on paper
21 x 31.7 cm. (8 1⁄4 x 12 1⁄2 in.)
L. Bernard, Paris
Georges Aubry & Cie, Paris
Dr Laurent Rehfous, Geneva, by whom acquired from the above in 27 February 1932
Private collection, Washington; sale, Christie's New York, 7 Nov 2001, Lot 408
Private collection, by whom acquired at the above sale

This pastel will be included in the forthcoming supplement to the Claude Monet catalogue raisonné to be published by the Wildenstein Institute.

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Lot Essay

Monet had first travelled to the tiny fishing village of Pourville in early 1882, for a solo stint that lasted from mid-February through mid-April, commencing a sequence of transformative painting campaigns at the Normandy shore that occupied him throughout the first half of the decade. This was a landscape that held profound personal resonance for Monet, the stark and solitary beauty of the coast in the off-season offered him a welcome refuge at that time. ‘One could not be closer to the sea than I am,’ he wrote rapturously to his wife Alice, ‘right on the shingle, and the waves break at the base of the house’ (quoted in exh. cat., Monet: The Seine and the Sea, Edinburgh, 2003, p. 132).

In Chemin creux, Pourville, Monet sets himself upon La Cavée, where the trail nestled deeply between steep, shrub-covered slopes. The path opens out in the foreground, beckoning the viewer to enter the landscape towards the water and wide sky beyond. ‘Monet was clearly captivated by the picturesque qualities of this route,’ David Steel has written, ‘but he seems to have been particularly sensitive to the compositional possibilities offered by one particular bend in the path’ (exh. cat., Monet in Normandy, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 2006, p. 110).

Executed swiftly, decisively and directly, Monet’s works in pastel deftly harness the subtle nuances of nature under shifting weather conditions, from the soft, diffused light of dawn as the sun calmly rises to the dramatic after-effects of a storm. Displaying a keen sense of momentary, fleeting nature, Chemin creux, Pourville, is suffused with a sense of the urgency with which Monet has attempted to capture its nuances before they shift and disappear. The richly worked surface is filled with expressive swathes of blue and white to describe the open expanse of sky, the textured slopes beneath creating a solidity in the land as the light shifts over it. Superimposing fresh colours over previously applied layers of pigment and blending shades together with his finger, Monet develops an intensely tactile, sensuous dialogue with his subject. In Chemin creux, Pourville Monet here seeks respite from the mundane in the boundless powers of nature – in the magisterial confrontation of earth, sea, and sky.

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