This work will be included in the supplement to the catalogue raisonné of Claude Monet's paintings and drawings being prepared by the Wildenstein Institute.
Refreshingly spontaneous in its handling, Paysage à Villez captures the first, immediate impression of Claude Monet’s response in front of the motif. Depicting a line of poplar trees on the bank of a river, the picture explores the relationship between water and greenery, foliage and waves that was at the core of much of the artist’s production. Executed with quick, vibrant brushstrokes and composed of an essential palette of green, blue and brown, the work expresses Monet’s sense of urgency in capturing nature in the moment. With a few brushstrokes, he was able to convey the frail presence of the trees, while evoking the atmospheric expanse beyond their silhouettes, suggesting the presence of the opposite bank through the use of a single, pink line.
Paysage à Villez is related to a series of landscapes Monet executed in 1883 in the environs of Villez. At the time, the artist had just moved to Giverny, where he would remain until the end of his life, surrounded by the legendary garden he would later spend years designing and nurturing. Giverny would be a source of great inspiration for the artist. Yet, at the time of his move, Monet seemed hesitant to depict the immediate surroundings of his new abode. Instead, he ventured into the neighboring countryside and Villez, a kilometer south of Giverny, was one of his destinations. There, the artist rediscovered his interest in the Seine. In its quick rendition of the motif, Paysage à Villez seems to capture the initial idea for the composition Paysage à Villez près de Vernon, which the artist completed that same year (Wildenstein, no. 837). Both paintings explore the idea of a line of trees, introducing a view of the Seine and the opposite bank and it is possible that they were both executed from the same vantage point, facing the town of Port-Villez.
Paysage à Villez was executed at a moment of transition in Monet’s life. At the beginning of 1883 the artist had declared his love to Alice Hoschedé, the wife of Ernest Hoschedé, who, in the preceding years, had been one of the most important patrons of the artist. Monet and Alice's illicit love had blossomed at a time of hardship and common struggle; in 1877 Ernest had to declare bankruptcy, losing his entire business and all of his assets, including the Château de Rottembourg, where Monet had been invited to paint a decorative scheme the previous year. At that time Monet was also struggling financially - two auction sales of Impressionist paintings had sold for low prices, temporarily damaging the group’s appeal; as a result the two families decided to combine their households at Vétheuil. Two years later, in 1879, Monet’s wife Camille died. As Ernest had found a job in Paris, Monet and Alice were left to oversee the house and their eight children. Four years later, the couple decided to move in together as one family, settling in Giverny. This marked the beginning of a new phase in Monet’s life and career. With Alice, the artist was able to find tranquility and a comforting family life, in Giverny he had found an oasis in which his artistic vision could flourish and expand for the rest of his life.