Panoramic views of the Seine near Vétheuil and Lavacourt featured in Monet's most accomplished canvases from the early 1880s. The scene here depicts the eastern view across the river to Vétheuil, with the church of Notre Dame in the distance. Between 1878-83, the artist lived in one of the blue-tiled houses pictured along the bank, and his proximity to the water played a key role in shaping his artistic practices during these years. Many of his pictures from this period were painted from his studio-boat, which he loaded with his painting supplies for day-long excursions along the river. It was on one of these expeditions that the artist took anchor on the Ile St-Martin la Garenne just as the sun was about to set over the water, to paint the present view.
Describing this picture in his study of the artist's paintings of Vétheuil, David Joel places us in the very spot in which the artist most probably depicted the present scene: "Fin d'après-midi, Vétheuil, is catalogued as a view from the riverbank upstream of Lavacourt, but in reality it is painted from the east bank of the Ile Saint-Martin. 'Les Tourelles' is to the left of the picture, the church dead centre, and between the two is a steam paddle-tug puffing white smoke over the top of Monet's house. On the shore of the island on which Monet's house can be seen, in the distance, two hayricks and the farm buildings of Ile Saint-Martin. In the right foreground, quite close to the painter, is a small island which has long since been dredged away, for it would have seriously impeded barge traffic going down river to Vernon. The painting is dominantly warm, red and pink, contrasting with blue reflections for the sky and blue-tiled roofs of the village of Vétheuil, whilst the hills and farmland are yellow-green" (D. Joel, op. cit., pp. 98-99).
Monet's paintings from Vétheuil evidence a critical development in the evolu
tion of his style, when he was willing to strike out from the now-established techniques of his early Impressionist style that he had perfected while living in Argenteuil in the 1870s. Many of these canvases strike a balance between the naturalist-realist origins of Impressionism and the bold experimentation in capturing the changing light of day that became an important element in the "series" paintings of the late 1880s. The present work, for example, is one of several views of this particular area of the Seine, but rendered with a crisp, golden light of the late afternoon.
With regard to the artist's technique in the 1880s, Andrew Forge has written, "Colour which he now learned to use with an unprecedented purity offers and infinitely subtle and flexible alternative to the traditional massing of light and shade. Systems of interlocking blues and oranges, for example, of lilacs and lemons will carry the eye across the whole surface of the canvas and these colour structures, each marvelously turned to the particulars of light will be augmented by a vast range of accents of comma, slash, dot, flake, each attuned economically to its object that the eye is continually at work in its reading," (A. Forge, Claude Monet (exhibition catalogue), New York, 1976).
Oil on canvas
Paris, La Vie moderne, Monet, 1880, no. 13 (titled Vétheuil, fin du jour)
28 1/2 by 39 1/4 in. 72 by 99 cm
Karl Madsen, Wilhelm Hansens Samling , Copenhagen, 1918, no. 93, p. 36
E. Dumonthier, "La collection W. Hansen," La Revue de l'art ancien et moderne, Paris, 1922, no. 241, p. 338
Daniel Wildenstein, Monet, Biographie et Catalogue raisonné, vol. I, Lausanne & Paris, 1974, no. 590, illustrated p. 369
Daniel Wildenstein, Claude Monet, Biographie et Catalogue raisonné, vol. V, Lausanne & Paris, 1991, no. 590, listed p. 35
Daniel Wildenstein, Claude Monet, Catalogue raisonné, vol. II, Cologne, 1996, no. 590, illustrated p. 228
David Joel, Monet at Vétheuil, 1878-1893, Prague, 2002, illustrated in color p. 41
Boussod, Valadon et Cie (acquired from the artist in 1892)
Bernheim-Jeune, Paris (1899)
Wilhelm Hansen, Ordrupgaard (circa 1918)
Prince Kojiro Matsukata (1922)
Collection Irmano, Japan (circa 1928)
Fujikawa Gallery, Japan
Sale: Christie's, London, November 27, 1989, lot 8
Sale: Christie's, London, November 30, 1992, lot 8
E.V. Thaw, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner