The theme of water bordered by trees, and notably views of the Seine, absorbed Monet throughout his life.
Le chemin de halage à Granval was painted in 1883 on the right bank of the Seine between Port-Villez and Vernon just next to the town of Giverny. Monet had first travelled to the region in 1879-1881 while painting at Vetheuil, and returned in April 1883, after a painting expedition in Etretat, to live in Giverny with his children and companion, Alice Hoschédé.
'He longed for a permanent base where he could at least paint and face misfortunes with a good heart, as he put it to Durand-Ruel. He began to explore the reaches of the Seine around Vernon and on one of the journeys discovered Giverny, an obscure little village on one of the branches into which the river Epte divides before it joins the Seine. Here he found a farmhouse to rent that exactly suited his needs. It stood at the foot of a hill between the main road of the village and the track of a little railway, and beyond were a willow-lined stream called the Ru, water meadows, tall plantations of poplars, and, a few kilometers on, the Seine itself. As an environment it had everything Monet needed.' (R. Gordon and A. Forge, Monet, New York, 1983, p. 97).
As always, it took time for Monet to get accustomed to his new environment. In a letter to Durand-Ruel dated from Giverny, July 3, 1883, Monet wrote, 'I find the countryside superb, and until now haven't known how to take advantage of it - it always takes time to familiarise oneself with a new place.' (Wildenstein, vol. II, Letter 302). Amongst his earlier motifs in the area were views of Port-Villez, painted for the most part in April 1883. But as Monet explored the area, he depicted the towns of Notre-Dame-de-la-Mer, Vernon and our present painting which is the only work representing the area of the Grand Val. Monet executed Le chemin de halage à Granval during the summer of 1883, at the same time he painted Vue de l'Eglise de Vernon (Wildenstein no. 843), and Le bord de l'eau à Vernon (Wildenstein no. 844). The perspective and composition he has used hark back to his magnificent early 1870s pictures executed in Argenteuil (Fi. 1). He sent the painting to Durand-Ruel, along with seven other works of the same period, in a consignment on 9 November. In an accompanying letter Monet wrote, 'Ainsi je vous l'ai annoncé, vous recevrez une caisse de tableaux dont ci-inclus la liste. J'éspère qu'il seront à votre goût. Il sont un peu frais, je vous recommande d'y faire attention.'
In the 1880s, Monet abandoned figures and indeed most elements that would in any way reveal the hand of man or modern life. Thus, in the present work, the river stretches into the distance without any obstructions. No houses line the banks and no factories or pleasure-seekers of the 1870s break the silence of the scene. One simple allusion of daily modern life is the small depiction of the tugboat lost in the distance, and harmoniously blended within the landscape and trees beyond.
Le chemin de halage à Granval
Oil on canvas
THE PROPERTY OF A SWISS COLLECTOR
Signed and dated 'Claude Monet 83' (lower right)
Saint Louis, The Art Palace, Exposition Universelle Beaux-Arts, 1904
New York, Durand-Ruel Gallery, Monet, 1907, no. 20.
Washington, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Masters of the Modern French School, 1911, no.25.
New York, Union League Club, 1915.
New York, Durand-Ruel Gallery, Monet, 1940, no.40.
New York, Wildenstein & Co., Claude Monet, 1945, no.45.
London, Marlborough Gallery, Monet, 1954, no.22.
St. Louis City Art Museum and The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Monet, 1957, no.56.
New York, Museum of Modern Art; Los Angeles County Museum, Claude Monet, Seasons and Moments, 1960, no.31.
New York, Acquavella Galleries, XXth Century Master Paintings, 1980, no.3.
25½ x 32in. (65 x 81cm.)
L. Venturi, Les Archives de L'Impressionnisme, vol. I, Paris-New York, 1939, p. 269.
D. Wildenstein, Claude Monet: Biographie et catalogue raisonné (1882-1886), vol. II, Lausanne-Paris, 1979, no. 840, p. 108 (illustrated p.109).
D. Wildenstein, Claude Monet, Catalogue raisonné, vol. II, Cologne, 1996, no. 840 (illustrated in colour p. 312).
D. Wildenstein, 'Impressioni', Monet Il maestro della luce, Milan, 2000, no. 23 (illustrated in colour p.59).
Galerie Durand-Ruel, Paris, by whom acquired from the artist in December 1883.
Jean d'Alayer, Paris.
Sam Salz, Inc., New York.
Mr and Mrs Georges L. Simmonds, Illinois (circa 1957).