By the mid-1870s Monet had developed a close friendship with Ernest Hoschedé, a wealthy businessman, and his wife, Alice. In 1876, Hoschedé commissioned the artist to paint a series of decorative canvases for their country home just east of Paris. However Hoschedé's good fortune quickly dimmed and he declared bankruptcy in 1877. By 1878, Monet and his wife Camille were also experiencing financial difficulties and with the Hoschedé's in a similiar situation, the two families combined their meager resources and together moved to Vétheuil, a small village forty miles down the Seine from Paris.
Ernest Hoschedé gradually isolated himself from his family, preferring to lead a bachelor's existence in Paris. Monet's financial troubles were further compounded by Camille's declining health who had fallen seriously ill after the birth of their second son, Michel in March 1978. She passed away in September 1879, leaving Monet and Alice to raise her six children and his two. As John House has speculated, "This unconvential ménage, and the rumours that grew up around it, probably contributed to Monet's comparative isolation from his former colleagues around 1880" (J. House, Nature into Art, London, 1986, p. 5).
The village of Vétheuil was set among rolling hills and crowned by its church spire, facing the hamlet of Lavacourt and sweeping views of open meadows along a bend in the Seine. As Robert Gordon and Andrew Forge have commented:
Vétheuil is at the apex of a vast curve in the Seine (halfway between Paris and Rouen). A large island lies midstream between the town and hamlet of Lavacourt on the southern bank. In Monet's time the two were linked by ferry. Behind Véthuil chalk hills rise steeply, cut in places into cliffs. Orchards and gardens line the river bank under the shelter of the cliffs. On the other side of the river, behind Lavacourt, the land is a flat, watery alluvial plain that stretches away as far as the eye can see. (R. Gordon and A. Forge, Monet, New York, 1983, p. 91)
Monet tirelessly explored the surrounding villages and countryside, painting views in all seasons. The Vétheuil countryside clearly agreed with the artist as it presented him with an abundant source of unspoiled nature. With views of poppy fields, hillsides lined with apple trees and vistas across the Seine, Monet chose to depict scenes unaffected by industrialization. Such paintings confirm Monet as a true pleinairist, fascinated by the changing effects of light through the seasons.
In 1880 Emile Taboureux visited Monet in Vétheuil and recounted their meeting in an edition of La Vie Moderne:
'Now then', I said without further ado, 'perhaps you would be so kind as to show me your studio?' At the sound of that word, sparks flew from Monet's eyes. 'My studio! but I never have had one, and personally I don't understand why anyone would want to shut themselves up in some room.' And with a gesture as expansive as the horizon, encompassing the entire Seine, now flecked with golds of the dying sun; the hills bathed in cool shadows; and the whole of Vétheuil itself...[Monet proclaimed] 'This is my studio!' (C.F. Stuckey, Monet: A Retrospective, exh. cat., New York, 1986, pp. 89-90)