Le Binnen-Amstel is one of twelve landscapes that Monet painted in Amsterdam, probably in early 1874. Monet had first traveled to Holland in 1871, living and working at Zaandam from June until October. He is known to have visited Amsterdam during this period, having signed the visitors' log at the Trippenhuis Museum on June 22nd. Scholars agree, however, that the twelve views of Amsterdam, none of which are dated, were almost certainly not painted during this sojourn, and that Monet must have made a second trip to Amsterdam, although no documentation of this journey survives. Two of the Amsterdam paintings are snowscapes, but weather records indicate that there was no snow in the city during Monet's trip in 1871. Moreover, there are striking stylistic differences between the views of Amsterdam and the 1871 Zaandam scenes. Ronald Pickvance has observed, "Stylistically, the Amsterdam landscapes bear little relationship to those of Zaandam. What has changed above all is the handling and the color. Brushstrokes are more abrupt and dynamic and applied in shorthand, which places the Amsterdam paintings among the true manifestations of Impressionist technique" (in Monet in Holland, exh. cat., Rijksmuseum Vincent Van Gogh, Amsterdam, 1986, p. 145). In his catalogue raisonné of Monet's work, Daniel Wildenstein argues that the Amsterdam scenes must have been executed in February or March of 1874--a period for which we lack any evidence concerning Monet's whereabouts, but which fits stylistically with the deft, rapid brushwork of these paintings.
The present painting is one of three views of the Binnen-Amstel canal that Monet made during his stay in Amsterdam. It was probably painted from a barge on the water, looking west toward the Halvemaans bridge with the tower of the Mint in the background. To paint the other two pictures in the series (Wildenstein, nos. 308-309), Monet moved slightly closer to the quay and turned clockwise ninety degrees, looking up the Groenburgwal toward the Zuiderkerk church. The nine remaining paintings that Monet made at Amsterdam depict a variety of sites around the city, including the harbor, the docks, and the Roozeboom windmill.
By the 1880s, the majority of Monet's Amsterdam paintings had been purchased by important private collectors, including Dr. Georges de Bellio, one of Monet's staunchest early patrons, and Mrs. Louisine Havemeyer, the first American collector of his work. The Impressionist painters Berthé Morisot and Mary Cassatt owned examples from the series as well. Monet's views of Amsterdam are now housed in several major museums, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, and the Shelburne Museum in Vermont.