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 The Cox Collection: The Story of Impressionism
CLAUDE MONET (1840-1926)

Le bassin d'Argenteuil

CLAUDE MONET (1840-1926)
Le bassin d'Argenteuil
signed 'Claude Monet' (lower left)
oil on canvas
21 ¾ x 28 7/8 in. (54 x 73.2 cm.)
Painted in 1874
François Depeaux, Rouen.
Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie., Paris (acquired from the above, 22 January 1898).
Dr. Albert Charpentier, Paris (acquired from the above, 7 February 1936).
Carlos Aramayo, France (probably by descent from the above, by circa 1962).
Wildenstein & Co. Inc., New York.
Acquired from the above by the late owner, 15 June 1983.
A. Fontainas, "Art moderne" in Mercure de France, May 1899, p. 530.
G. Grappe, Claude Monet, Paris, 1909, p. 57 (illustrated; titled Les bateaux à Argenteuil).
G. Lecomte, "Cl. Monet ou le vieux chêne de Giverny" in La Renaissance de l'art français et des industries de luxe, October 1920, p. 408 (illustrated; titled Les bateaux à Argenteuil).
L. Werth, Claude Monet, Paris, 1928 (illustrated, pl. 18; titled Bateaux à Argenteuil).
M. Malingue, Claude Monet, Monaco, 1943, p. 146 (illustrated, p. 65; titled Les bateaux, Argenteui and dated 1873).
G. Besson, Claude Monet, Paris, 1946 (illustrated, pl. 6; titled Argenteuil, les bateaux and dated 1873).
D. Wildenstein, Claude Monet: Biographie et catalogue raisonné, Lausanne, 1974, vol. I, p. 254, no. 326 (illustrated, p. 255).
D. Wildenstein, Claude Monet: Biographie et catalogue raisonné, supplément aux peintures, dessins, pastels, Lausanne, 1991, vol. V, p. 29, no. 326.
D. Wildenstein, Monet: Catalogue raisonné, Cologne, 1996, vol. II, p. 137, no. 326 (illustrated).
B. Echte and W. Feilchenfeldt, eds., Kunstsalon Paul Cassirer. Die Ausstellungen 1905-1908, Teil 1 "Den Sinnen ein magischer Rausch“, Wädenswiel, 2013, vol. 3, p. 58.
London, Knightsbridge, Exhibition of International Art, May 1898, p. 16, no. 137.
Paris, Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie., Exposition de tableaux de Monet, Pissarro, Renoir & Sisley, April 1899, no. 8 (dated 1878).
Berlin, Paul Cassirer, VIII. Jahrgang, I. Ausstellung, October-November 1905, no. 12.
Paris, Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie., Exposition de paysages par Claude Monet et Renoir, May-June 1908, no. 17 (dated 1875).
(possibly) Paris, Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie., Monet, 1914, no. 25.
Paris, Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie., OEuvres importantes de Monet, Pissarro, Renoir, Sisley, January 1925, p. 4, no. 23.
New York, Durand-Ruel Galleries, Exhibition of Paintings by Claude Monet, April 1931, no. 8 (dated 1875).
New York, Durand-Ruel Galleries, Exhibition of Paintings by Degas, Renoir, Monet, Pissarro and Sisley prior to 1880, October-November 1931, no. 6 (dated 1875).
The Arts Club of Chicago, Exhibition of Paintings by Claude Monet in Retrospect, 1868-1913, January 1933, no. 3 (titled Les bateaux à Argenteuil and dated 1875).
Paris, Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie., Exposition de tableaux Claude Monet de 1865 à 1888, November-December 1935, no. 17 (titled Les bateaux, Argenteuil and dated 1873).
London, Arthur Tooth & Sons, Ltd., Selected Pictures by Claude Monet, March-April 1936 (illustrated; titled Les bateaux à Argenteuil and dated 1873).
Paris, Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie., Quelques Maîtres du 18ème et 19ème siècle au profit de la Société des Amis du Louvre et de l'Oeuvre de l'Enfance malheureuse, May-June 1938, no. 43 (titled Les bateaux à Argenteuil and dated 1873).
Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Honderd Jaar Fransche Kunst, July-September 1938, p. 105, no. 176 (illustrated; titled Les bateaux à Argenteuil and dated circa 1873).
The Dallas Museum of Art, Impressionist and Modern Masters in Dallas: Monet to Mondrian, September-October 1989, p. 74, no. 65.
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Lot Essay

The landscapes that Claude Monet painted at Argenteuil during the 1870s are regarded as a high point of Impressionism. Picturing the Seine with boats gently gliding atop its sun-dappled waters, the flowering oasis of his garden, quiet fields, or the streets of the town itself, it was here that Monet, joined at times by his artistic allies—Edouard Manet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley, and Gustave Caillebotte—consolidated the defining motifs and formal qualities of Impressionism. “Probably no single place could be identified more closely with Impressionism than Argenteuil,” John Rewald stated (The History of Impressionism, New York, 1946, p. 341), while Paul H. Tucker has described Monet’s oeuvre from this period as, “one of the most remarkable bodies of work in the history of art, making Argenteuil synonymous with Impressionism and a touchstone for the development of Western visual culture” (The Impressionists at Argenteuil, exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 2000, p. 14).
Painted in 1874, the year of the landmark First Impressionist Exhibition, Le bassin dArgenteuil is a quintessential landscape from this breakthrough moment. Likely painted in the late spring or summer, a highly prolific moment following this notorious artistic debut, this radiant vista shows the Seine from Argenteuil’s quieter neighbor, Petit Gennevilliers, which was situated on the opposite bank. Of Argenteuil’s many possible pictorial motifs, it was the river that provided Monet with the greatest inspiration. The scenes of sun-filled pleasure boating that he found there not only provided him with an unequivocally modern subject, but the combination of water, light, atmosphere, and movement enabled Monet to further his novel artistic language, working en plein air to capture nature with an impressive spontaneity and directness. “Boating was for [Monet] what the horserace or the ballet was for Degas,” Tucker has explained, “a modern subject that revealed the spirit and opportunities of the era and the processes and poetry of art” (Monet at Argenteuil, New Haven, 1986, p. 101).
Located on the right bank of the Seine just eleven kilometers west of Paris, Argenteuil was a suburb of around eight thousand inhabitants when Monet moved there in December 1871. Parisians knew it as an agréable petite ville—rapidly industrializing yet still postcard picturesque, and only fifteen minutes by rail from the Gare Saint-Lazare. Known for its legendary asparagus, the town was alive with burgeoning industry and tourism, a popular destination for Parisians who wanted to escape the noise and dirt of the capital. As a result, it had much to offer the artist, with vistas both rural and modern satisfying not only his desire for a greater closeness to nature, but at the same time serving as the perfect place for the pictorial pursuit of modernity.
Argenteuil was especially popular among middle-class leisure-seekers devoted to the newly fashionable sport of sailing. This stretch of the Seine is where the river reached its widest expanse and dropped to its greatest depth, as well as being relatively straight and free of islands or obstructions—perfect conditions for sailing. In 1850, the first regatta was held in Argenteuil, which quickly led to the establishment of Paris’s most fashionable yacht club there in 1858. As one writer described at the time, “nowhere in the immediate vicinity of Paris does the Seine present to amateur boaters a basin as favorable in length and breadth as well as current as at Argenteuil” (quoted in ibid., p. 90). The town quickly became renowned for its sailing—so much so that it was picked to host the international regattas that were held alongside the 1867 Exposition Universelle. When Monet arrived a few years later, Argenteuil had become a national center for the sport, attracting both bourgeois day-trippers from the capital as well as sporting professionals. Mooring areas and boathouses lined the banks, with sailboats flying in the wind and tes nautiques attracting numerous spectators to its wooded banks.
Monet was immediately attracted to this subject. Boating was not new to the artist who had grown up in Sainte-Adresse and spent many summers on the Normandy coast. In Honfleur and Le Havre he had been drawn to the activity on the water, and, while in exile in London during the Franco-Prussian war, he had been inspired not by the streets of the city, but by the Thames. Monet’s arrival in Argenteuil was no different as the artist quickly began depicting scenes that focused on the activity in and around the Seine. Together with the wide, expansive basin of the river, where the boat races took place, and the Petit Bras, a quieter offshoot of the river that encircled an island, Monet also focused on the boat rental area, a stretch of the river on the opposite bank of Argenteuil near to the highway bridge. Home to moored boats and jetties, this was one of Monet’s favorite subjects, as the present work masterfully shows.
It was to the Seine that Monet returned following the month-long First Impressionist Exhibition that had opened in Paris in April 1874. Over the course of the spring and summer, Monet worked with a fervent energy, finishing more pictures than he had ever painted in a similar period of time. Together with Manet, who took up residence at his family’s summer home in Gennevilliers, as well as Renoir who made an extended stay in Argenteuil that summer, Monet concentrated much of his energy on scenes of this bustling and picturesque waterway, often painting from his tailor-made studio boat.
This period constitutes a golden moment of Impressionism. Galvanized by the turbulent reception the debut exhibition of their work had garnered in Paris, these artists frequently worked side-by-side, inspiring each other to move forward with their new artistic language. Manet’s Argenteuil (1874, Private collection) is closely related to the present work, while Renoir depicted a similar scene in La Seine à Argenteuil (Les Voiles) (Portland Art Museum)—a work which finds its pendant in Monet’s Canotiers à Argenteuil (Wildenstein, no. 324; Private collection). Encapsulating this spirit of shared creativity, Le bassin dArgenteuil represents the united endeavor of Impressionism in these definitive years of the movement’s development.
In choosing boating subjects, Monet was engaging with an unequivocally modern theme: suburban leisure. With the advent of train travel and the rise of the bourgeoisie who had the money and desire to spend time outside the city, Parisians came in their droves to suburbs like Argenteuil, with a plethora of restaurants, cafés and boat rental establishments proliferating to serve these new tourists. Impressionists, in their quest to capture modernity in all its forms, were inexorably drawn to these new hubs of contemporary life. Sailboats encapsulated this new trend. No longer solely the preserve of the upper classes, sailing became more accessible thanks to the boats that could be affordably rented for the day. It was to this pastime and class that Monet looked in his depiction of the Seine; rather than capturing the wealthy owners of racing yachts and steamboats, rowers or professionals that also populated the river, Monet more frequently pictured the bourgeois novices who hired the more affordable and practical sailboats for the day.
It is not only the subject of Le bassin dArgenteuil that is quintessentially modern, but Monet’s handling was similarly innovative. Sun-dappled, picturesque scenes like this one have become so iconic that it can be hard to appreciate how radical Monet’s approach to form was in his day. In Le bassin dArgenteuil, he has replaced the dark, muted hues of Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Gustave Courbet, and the Barbizon school with a heightened palette of glowing colors, which brilliantly conveys the sensation of the bright, pleasant day. The paint is applied in daringly broken brushstrokes: bold slabs and dashes of independent, unmixed pigment—dazzling greens, flecks of orange, and passages of vivid blue and white—capture the flashing reflections on the water, conveying the movement and activity that fills the composition. This transparent brushwork, a revolutionary departure from Salon norms, also explicitly inscribes the presence of the artist, bearing witness to a central tenet of Impressionism as well as one of its most persuasive myths: the plein-air master before nature, rapidly transcribing his immediate sensations.
Yet, for all its appearance of spontaneity, Le bassin dArgenteuil is in fact carefully crafted. The strong horizontal thrust of the tightly cropped composition—imparted primarily through the successive bands of river, land, and sky, and emphasized by the dominant position of the moored boats—is balanced by the ascendant masts of these stationary vessels. While in the foreground, the two rowing boats appear placed according to the whim of the currents, and the couple are similarly captured as they move along the jetty, their movements unposed and unplanned, this composition is in fact deftly constructed by Monet. Seemingly a snapshot of life on the Seine, his astute balance of pictorial elements lends the painting a steady sense of harmony, these disparate parts existing in perfect accord. With these works, as Tucker has written, “Monet’s aim was to make a kind of perfect place, a modern day utopia, for himself and his viewers… in painting after painting he transforms the mundane, messy matter of streets and boats and flowing fields into the orderly stuff of the ideal. Sunsets emblazon cloud-scudded skies, sculls skim effortlessly across colorful waters, and elegantly dressed women walk through flower-strewn meadows” (Claude Monet: Life and Art, New Haven, 1995, pp. 80-81).
The first owner of Le bassin dArgenteuil was the Rouen-based coal magnate and famed Impressionist collector, François Depeaux. Renowned for owning nearly six hundred Impressionist works, which included seminal paintings like Renoir’s Danse à Bougival (1883, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston) and one of the first of Monet’s Rouen Cathedral series, Le Portrail et la tour d'Albane, temps gris (Wildenstein, vol. 2, no. 1345; Musée des Beaux-Arts et de la Céramique, Rouen), to name but a few, Depeaux later bequeathed a portion of his legendary collection to the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rouen. He sold Le bassin dArgenteuil to Paul Durand-Ruel in 1898, with whom this work remained until 1936. Included in an exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam two years later, this work has not been publicly exhibited since this time.

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