The Collection of Drue Heinz
Of the four versions that Monet painted of the Palais Dario, two can be found in public institutions, including The Art Institute of Chicago and The National Museum of Wales, Cardiff.
In September 1908, when Monet and his wife Alice received an unexpected invitation to visit Venice, the 68-year-old artist had scarcely strayed from his home at Giverny since his London campaigns at the turn of the century. Utterly absorbed in his visionary Nymphéas series, Monet was reluctant at first to accept the invitation, which came from their friend Mary Young Hunter. Alice, though, was eager to travel, and the accommodations on offer—at the opulent Palazzo Barbaro, where Mrs. Hunter was then staying—were most tempting. The lagoon city, moreover, was an aesthetic Mecca—the place where colore had prevailed over disegno during the Renaissance, and a prime destination ever since for colorists seeking to experience the gloriously effulgent environment that had nurtured their venerated predecessors. In the end, the allure of Venice proved too strong for Monet to resist. He arrived there with Alice on 1 October and worked intensively for ten weeks, returning to Giverny in December with 37 canvases underway.
The art historical legacy of La Serenissima weighed heavily on Monet during his first few days in the city. “Unrenderable,” he declared. “Too beautiful to be painted” (Monet quoted in, exh. cat., op. cit., 1997, p. 49). By the second week of his stay, however, he had selected his motifs and picked up his palette. Rather than recording the changes in light on a given subject from morning to evening, as he had in London, he now opted to paint each site at a single moment in the day, eliminating time as a variable in order to isolate the kaleidoscopic effects of the famous Venetian haze. By 8:00 a.m., he set himself up on the island of San Giorgio to observe his first motif, the Doge’s Palace; mid-morning, he reversed his viewpoint and painted the church of San Giorgio. After lunch, he stayed close to his lodgings, looking across the Grand Canal toward the church of Santa Maria della Salute or—as here—a group of Renaissance palazzi on the south bank, their ornate, polychrome façades seeming to float mirage-like on the water.
The present canvas is one of four paintings that Monet made of the Palazzo Dario, named for the patrician merchant family that lived there in the late 15th century and a favorite of later travelers to Venice—John Ruskin and Henry James, most notably—for its florid, marble-encrusted oculi (Wildenstein, nos. 1757-1760; The Art Institute of Chicago, and National Museum of Wales, Cardiff). Monet also painted two views each of the nearby Palazzo Contarini and Palazzo da Mula, for a total of eight canvases in this sub-series (nos. 1764-1767; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., and Kunstmuseum, Saint-Gall). While the remaining palazzo pictures all show signs of extensive re-working back in Monet’s studio at Giverny, the present version preserves all the freshness and vigor of the artist’s initial encounter with the motif, suggesting that it was completed on site in Venice, as the afternoon sun dipped low to the right of the scene (G. Seiberling, op. cit., 1981, pp. 210-211).
Monet painted the Palazzo Dario head-on, setting up his easel directly across the Grand Canal near the Prefecture building, some two hundred meters east of the Palazzo Barbaro and only slightly farther from the Hôtel Britannia, where he and Alice moved in mid-October. From this vantage point, the view resolved into a nearly abstract formal configuration of two parallel, planar bands: the irregular stone mass of the palace above and its ever-shifting aqueous echo below. “Ignoring romantic clichés,” William Seitz has written, “Monet affixed the truncated façade to the top of his composition, square with the frame and exactly parallel to the canvas surface. Its rhythmic horizontal and vertical architectural divisions reinforce the sparkle of light and shadow on the lapping water” (exh. cat., op. cit., 1960, p. 43). The contrasting, curvilinear shape of a gondola moored at the main portal articulates the boundary between the façade and its reflection, and evokes a human presence within the hauntingly unpeopled vista.
At Giverny, Monet had narrowed his vision to comprise only the tilted plane of the water garden, with nothing more firm to paint than the floating lily pads. Venice provided an invigorating alternative to this radically condensed repertoire, offering the artist an enriched dance of light over the solids and voids of the architecture as well as the surface of the water with its fractured reflections. Here, Monet treated the façade of the Palazzo Dario as a screen for the play of color, capturing the blue-tinged light that bounced off the canal and the jewel-like touches of violet and ochre that enlivened the loggias and decorative disks, while avoiding the detailed description that he bemoaned in traditional vedutiste renderings of Venice. “Monet had no interest in ‘imitating’ the glorious aspects of these rich façades,” Joachim Pissarro has written. “His goal was to rival them pictorially, to create an image in pigment that would be as rich as the façades were in stone. This was perhaps Monet’s ultimate challenge while in Venice” (exh. cat., op. cit., 1997, p. 164).
In thrall to his motifs and “always further into the enchantment of Venice,” as he wrote to Georges Clemenceau, Monet repeatedly pushed back his intended departure date (quoted in ibid., p. 52). On 7 December, their eventual last day in the city, he and Alice made plans to return the next year, but Alice’s deteriorating health precluded it; she died in May 1911, leaving Monet devastated. When he was again able to take up his brushes in October, his first goal was to ready the Venice paintings for exhibition—“souvenirs of such happy days passed with my dear Alice,” he told the Bernheim brothers, with whom he had contracted for the show (quoted in exh. cat., op. cit., 1998, p. 57). The present canvas is one of the few from the series that Monet did not release to the dealers, keeping it for himself instead as a timeless and deeply personal commemoration. “For Monet,” Pissarro has concluded, “Venice could not be the mirror of history, it could only be the mirror of his soul—or its closest equivalent, his palette of colors” (exh. cat., op. cit., 1997, p. 179).
The Collection of Drue Heinz
Le Palais Dario
'Claude Monet' (lower left)
Claude Monet (1840-1926)
Paris, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune et Cie., Claude Monet, January-February 1921, no. 38 (illustrated; titled Venise).
Paris, Galerie Durand-Ruel et Cie., Claude Monet, January 1928, no. 74.
New York, The Museum of Modern Art and Los Angeles County Museum, Claude Monet: Seasons and Moments, March-August 1960, p. 63, no. 98.
New Haven, Yale University Art Gallery, Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture Collected by Yale Alumni, May-June 1960, p. 54, no. 55 (illustrated, p. 55).
Paris, Centre Culturel du Marais, Claude Monet au temps de Giverny, April-July 1983, pp. 139-140, no. 39 (illustrated in color, fig. 74).
Fort Worth, Kimball Art Museum and Brooklyn Museum of Art, Monet and the Mediterranean, June 1997-January 1998, pp. 164 and 166 (illustrated in color, p. 167, pl. 94).
Boston, Museum of Fine Arts and London, Royal Academy of Arts, Monet in the 20th Century, September 1998-April 1999, pp. 53, 178 and 283, no. 57 (illustrated in color, p. 190).
New York, Wildenstein & Co., Inc., Claude Monet: A Tribute to Daniel Wildenstein and Katia Granoff, April-June 2007, p. 327, no. 53 (illustrated in color, p. 270).
Basel, Fondation Beyeler, Venice: From Canaletto and Turner to Monet, September 2008-February 2009, p. 217 (illustrated in color, p. 202).
G. Geffroy, "La Venise de Claude Monet" in La Dépêche de Toulouse, 30 May 1912, p. 1.
A. Alexandre, Claude Monet, Paris, 1921, p. 110 (illustrated in color, p. 111; titled Venise).
Bulletin de la Vie Artistique, 15 February 1921, p. 114 (illustrated).
O. Reuterswärd, Monet: En konstnärshistorik, Stockholm, 1948, pp. 255-256 (illustrated, p. 255, fig. 122).
G. Bernheim de Villers, Little Tales of Great Artists, New York, 1949, p. 69 (illustrated; titled Venise).
R. Jullian, "Les Impressionnistes français et l'Italie" in Publications de l'Institut Français de Florence, 1968, 1ère série, NII-11, p. 19.
A. Davis, "Sutton Place Townhouse: Italian Designer Blends Fine Art and Décor" in Architectural Digest, December 1977, pp. 38-47 (illustrated in color in situ in Drue Heinz's home, p. 38).
G. Seiberling, Monet's Series, New York, 1981, pp. 210-211, 338 and 380, no. 16, note 43.
D. Wildenstein, Claude Monet: Biographie et catalogue raisonné, Lausanne, 1985, vol. IV, p. 242, no. 1760 (illustrated, p. 243).
S.Z. Levine, Monet, Narcissus and Self-Reflection: The Modernist Myth of the Self, Chicago, 1994, p. 179.
S. Koja, Claude Monet, exh. cat., Osterreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna, 1996, p. 151 (illustrated).
D. Wildenstein, Monet: Catalogue raisonné, Cologne, 1996, vol. IV, pp. 825-826, no. 1760 (illustrated in color, p. 825).
M. Goldin, Monet: I luoghi della pittura, Conegliano, 2001, pp. 186 and 191, note 17.
M. Vallora, "Una Venezia dipinta di parole" in Monet: Atti del convegno, Conegliano, 2003, p. 79 (illustrated).
Galerie Bernheim Jeune et Cie., Paris (acquired from the family of the artist, by 1927).
Gaston Bernheim de Villers, Paris (acquired from the above, circa 1934).
Sam Salz, Inc., New York.
Acquired from the above by the late owner, 17 December 1959.