Claude Monet

The Seine at Port-Villez


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On loan

ACMI (Melbourne, Australia): Pudong

Claude Monet 1840–1926
Original title
La Seine à Port-Villez
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 654 × 1003 mm
frame: 864 × 1216 × 88 mm
Purchased 1953

Display caption

Monet executed several scenes of the Seine near his house at Giverny. He probably began each canvas in a specially adapted flat-bottomed boat, but would have continued working on paintings in his studio over a period of time. Monet has stripped this scene of physical detail, focusing, instead, on recording the all-enveloping light and atmosphere of the river. In 1891 he said, 'For me, a landscape does not exist in its own right, since its appearance changes at every moment; but the surrounding atmosphere brings it to life - the air and the light, which vary continuously. For me, it is only the surrounding atmosphere which gives subjects their true value.'

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

Claude Monet 1840-1926

N06182 La Seine à Port-Villez (The Seine at Port-Villez) 1894

Inscribed 'Claude Monet 1885' b.l.
Oil on canvas, 25 ¾ x 39 ½ (65 x 100)
Purchased from the Wildenstein Gallery (Grant-in-Aid) 1953
Prov: With Durand-Ruel, Paris and New York (purchased from the artist, 30 October 1911, for 1,200 frs.); André Weil, Paris; with Wildenstein, New York and London, 1947
Exh: Paintings by French Impressionists, Detroit Museum of Art, November 1915 (28) as 'The Seine at Lavacour' (sic); Monet and Renoir, Durand-Ruel, New York, December 1915 (18); Paintings by Modern French Masters, Worcester Art Museum, December 1917 (11); Summer Exhibition of Selected Works from the Leading Exhibitions of 1918-1919 and a Group of Modern Spanish and French Paintings, Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester, July-October 1919 (53); Claude Monet, Kunsthaus, Zurich, May-June 1952 (65)
Lit: Lionello Venturi, Les Archives de l'Impressionnisme (Paris-New York 1939), Vol.1, p.429; Daniel Wildenstein, Claude Monet: Biographie et Catalogue raisonné (Lausanne-Paris 1979), Vol. 3, No.1373, p.174, repr. p.175 as 'La Seine à Port-Villez, Harmonie bleue' 1894

This picture raises problems of two kinds. In the first place it was bought (and appears in the Durand-Ruel records) as 'Morning on the Seine at Lavacourt' but represents a motif at Port-Villez, close to Giverny. In the second it is dated 1885, but appears on style to be a work of the 1890s. There are four other very similar paintings the same size of this motif, all, like this, effects of morning mist on the river and all clearly painted at the same time as this work. Three bear the date 1894. The photograph of the present work in the Durand-Ruel files has an annotation: 'Painting executed by Monet in 1894 but dated by error by the artist: 1885'.

This work remained in the artist's possession until 30 October 1911, when it was purchased by Durand-Ruel. On 23 October of that year Monet wrote to him that he had finished retouching the pictures which Durand-Ruel was buying from him and would send them as soon as the canvases were dry. It seems more than likely that he signed and dated this picture then and, as it was painted long before, could not remember the date or the motif.

J.-P. Hoschedé, the artist's stepson, said he thought that these pictures were painted from a boat (letter of 30 June 1954).

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, p.539, reproduced p.539

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