Claude Monet (1840-1926)
Property from the family of Claude Monet
Claude Monet (1840-1926)

Trois arbres à Giverny (Peupliers)

Claude Monet (1840-1926)
Trois arbres à Giverny (Peupliers)
stamped with signature 'Claude Monet' (Lugt 1819b; lower right); stamped with signature 'Claude Monet' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
28 ¾ x 36 3/8 in. (73.1 x 92.4 cm.)
Painted in 1887
Estate of the artist.
Michel Monet, Giverny (by descent from the above).
Rolande Verneiges, France (gift from the above, 30 March 1963).
By descent from the above to the present owner.
D. Wildenstein, Claude Monet, Biographie et catalogue raisonné, Lausanne and Paris, 1979, vol. III, p. 98, no. 1157 (illustrated, p. 99).
D. Wildenstein, Monet, catalogue raisonné, Lausanne, 1991, vol. III, p. 437, no. 1157 (illustrated).
M. Alphant, Claude Monet, Une vie dans le paysage, Paris, 1993, p. 497.
Paris, Galerie H. Odermatt-Ph. Cazeau, Maîtres des XIXe et XXe siècles, May-July 1988, no. 9 (illustrated in color; titled 'Trois peupliers à Giverny').
Post lot text
« The landscape at Giverny fascinated him. He spent a long while exploring, walking over hills and through valleys, in marshes and meadows, among streams and poplars. Or, drifting down the quiet river in his boat he would watch with a hunter’s concentration for the precise moment when light shimmered on grass or on silver willow leaves or on the surface of the water. Suddenly or by degrees his motif would be revealed to him’ »
C. Joyes, Monet at Giverny, London, 1975, p. 20.

Painted in the lush countryside of Giverny, across a verdant meadow probably close to Jeufosse or Vernonnet hill, Trois arbres à Giverny is a stunning example of the wonderful group of prairie scenes painted by Claude Monet over the course of 1887 and 1888 that celebrate the subtle light and vibrant colors of spring. No less than three sketches of the present painting are held at the Musée Marmottan Monet in Paris, demonstrating the artist’s passion for studying the ever-changing effects of different atmospheric conditions on the landscape.
Embodying many of the central tenets of Monet’s practice, Trois arbres à Giverny illustrates the artist’s unwavering dedication to painting en plein air. The artist would spend several hours each day immersed in the landscape, carefully observing the minute, almost imperceptible changes that occurred in the light as it shifted in response to the season, the constantly changing weather, and the time of day. Painting directly before his chosen motif, the resulting canvases are incredibly nuanced visions of the landscape at the particular moment they were created.
Monet’s method of painting en plein air was described by Gustave Geffroy in 1880: “All haste as he fills the canvas with the dominant tones, he then studies their graduations and contrast and harmonizes them. From this comes the painting’s unity... Observe... all these different states of nature... and you will see the mornings rise before you, afternoons grow radiant, and the darkness of evening descend” (D. Wildenstein, Monet or The Triumph of Impressionism, Cologne, 2003, p. 234).
Monet painted Trois arbres à Giverny shortly after returning from a series of expeditions which had taken him across the country, from the wind-swept Normandy coastline in the northern part of France, to the warm climes and sun soaked streets of Antibes on the Côte d’Azur. After such extended periods of travel, the painter felt the need to turn his focus to back to his home, to the rich landscapes that surrounded the property he had purchased four years previously in Giverny. The tranquility of the verdant surroundings offered Monet a series of new motifs to work from, most notably the famed poplar trees, which were a common sight along the roadsides and riverbanks of the area. (fig. 1).
In the present work, the majesty of the trees is enhanced by the contrast between the verticality of the poplars and the horizontality of the meadow. The artist chose to focus more on the surface and the interplay of colors visible in their forms, rather than on the depth of the scene, to capture a sense of their visual dominance within the landscape. Through the introduction of a diverse array of colors and tones, from the rose-tinted haze that cuts across the sky, to the mosaic of deep blue, gold, green and red that fills the meadow, Monet conveys the rich, but ephemeral, play of light and color that strikes the poplars and their surroundings, in the early hours of the morning.
By focusing on the towering, thin forms of the poplars, Monet chose to explore a particularly French subject matter. The trees were intrinsically tied to the identity of his homeland, a common feature in the countryside, frequently used to demarcate property boundaries and often planted along riverbanks to prevent flooding. Furthermore, after the French Revolution in 1789, the poplars became associated with the ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity due to his the etymology of their name: deriving from the Latin word populous, meaning both people and popular, the poplar tree came to be seen as a symbol of the new republic, “l’arbre de la liberté”. During the 19th century, many commemorations were organized for the centenary of the Revolution, and poplars were planted all across the country. In an article from L’Hermitage in 1889 a critic declared that “Monet understood the poplar, which summarizes all the grace, all the spirit, all the youth of our land” (P.H. Tucker, Monet in the 90s: The Series Paintings, exh. cat., Boston, 1990, p. 151).
This motif of the poplars may also have reminded the artist of the visual drama often seen in the Japanese prints he was collecting at this time, many of which decorated the Giverny house (fig. 2). Indeed, the compositional structure of Trois arbres à Giverny,along with its tight framing and limited sense of depth, share a strong affinity with the prints of Utagawa Hiroshige and Katsushika Hokusai which explored similar themes. Both artists featured strongly in Monet’s richly diverse collection of Japanese prints, and may have inspired the artist to adopt a new way of looking at the landscape.

(fig. 1) Claude Monet, Effet de vent, série des peupliers, 1891.
Musée d’Orsay, Paris.

(fig. 2) Utagawa Hiroshige, Maiko Beach in Harima Province, 1854.
Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis.

(fig. 3) Gustav Klimt, Farmhouse with birch trees, 1900.
Private collection.

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Elaine Holt
Elaine Holt

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