This work has been requested for the upcoming exhibition, The Light of Venice, to be held at the Beyeler Foundation in Riehen from September 28, 2008 until January 25, 2009.
On his arrival in Venice in October 1908, Monet joined a long and illustrious list of artists captivated by the Serenissima. Like Whistler, Turner and Sargent before him, he was fascinated by Venice's soft flickering light and majestic architecture. At first he felt that Venice was too beautiful to be painted, but in a matter of weeks he set up his easel along the Grand Canal and completed a series of beautifully atmospheric depictions of the lagoon. The present painting is one of four works (see figs. 1 & 2) in which Monet depicted the 15th century palace of Giovanni Dario, the secretary of the Venetian senate. This particular canvas one stands out among them all because of the glow and crispness of its colors.
For the first few weeks of their two-month visit, Monet and Alice were guests of Mary Hunter at the Palazzo Barbaro. From the balcony, they could see all three of the Grand Canal palaces he was to paint during his time in Venice: Palazzo da Mula, Palazzo Contarini and the subject of this painting, Palazzo Dario (see fig. 3). As in his London series, Monet often repeated the same motif several times, exploring shifts in tonality and lighting depending on the time of day and the atmospheric conditions.
Renouncing a more traditional compositional format in this picture, Monet crops the Palais Dario and most of the neighboring Palazzo Barbaro-Volkoff, giving the painting the immediacy of a snapshot. The composition is built around the slender and almost symmetrical gondola, which helps define the transition between the horizontal surface of the water and the vertical palace. In Le Palais Dario, Monet's Venice is autumnal. The light is muted, the black shadows of the unlit windows adjoining the palace are infused with vermillion -- a hue associated with empire and majesty. The mysterious dark recesses hint at the opulent interiors without revealing them and lure the viewer in.
Like his great predecessors in Venice, Monet experimented with the light-distorting haze that hangs over the Venetian lagoon. He chose to depict the scene in his four paintings in both horitonzal and vertical format. This vertical picture, similar to the canvas in the collection of National Museum of Wales (Wildenstein 1759), focuses on the elongated, shimmering reflection of the palace in the waters of the canal.
Here Monet continued to observe, as he had in the Views of the Thames he completed in 1904, how light reflected off a wide stretch of water dissolves and liquefies the solid, uneven surfaces of stone walls. In Venice, however, the closeness of the buildings to the water's edge led him to explore more abstract compositions, accentuating the interplay between the rhythms of the ornate façade, with its arched openings and horizontal divisions, and the rhythmic expanse of water. In his introduction to the Bernheim-Jeune exhibition, Octave Mirbeau observed that the atmosphere in Monet's views of Venetian palaces was "mixed with colour as though it had passed through a stained-glass window." In fact, these pictures have a close formal relationship with the series of Water lilies that had occupied Monet at Giverny before his trip to Venice. In later months, Monet even claimed that this trip to Venice has enabled him to return to these compositions with a fresh perspective.
The present canvas is one that remained in Monet's private collection until his death in 1924. It was later inherited by his son, Michel, who lent it to the important exhibition of Monet's work at Paul Rosenberg's gallery in 1935.
Fig. 1, Claude Monet, Le Palais Dario, 1908, oil on canvas, The Art Institute of Chicago. Mr and Mrs Lewis Larned Coburn Memorial Collection
Fig. 2, Claude Monet, Le Palais Dario, 1908, oil on canvas, Private Collection, United States
Fig. 3, Photograph of the Palais Dario, Collection Philippe Piguet
Oil on canvas
Paris, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Claude Monet, Venise, 1912, no. 20-15
32 by 26 in. 81 by 66 cm
Gustave Geffroy, "La Venise de Claude Monet," La Dépêche de Toulouse, May 30, 1912, p. 1
Henri Genet, "Beaux-Arts et Curiosités, Les 'Venise' de Claude Monet", L'Opinion, June 1, 1912, p. 698
"Art et Curiosité. Venise vue par Claude Monet," Le Temps, June 11, 1912, p. 4
Andre Arnyvelde, "Chez le peintre de la lumière," Je sais tout, January 15, 1914, illustrated p. 31
Florent Fels, "L'atelier de Claude Monet au Musée de l'Orangerie," Formes, May 15, 1931, illustrated p. 75-77
Grace Seiberling, Monet's Series, New York, 1981, pp. 210 and 380, no. 15
Daniel Wildenstein, Claude Monet, Biographie et Catalogue raisonné, vol. IV, Lausanne and Paris 1985, no. 1758, illustrated p. 241 (see: letters nos. 2001b and 2012a)
Philippe Piguet, Monet et Venise, Paris, 1986, no. 29, illustrated p. 99
Daniel Wildenstein, Claude Monet, Biographie et Catalogue raisonné, vol. V, Lausanne and Paris, 1991, no. 1758, listed p. 53
Daniel Wildenstein, Monet, Catalogue Raisonné, vol. 4, Cologne, 1996, no. 1758, illustrated p. 824
Galerie Bernheim-Jeune and Galerie Durand-Ruel, Paris (bought in May 1912 and returned to the artist in June 1912)
Michel Monet, Giverny (in 1935)
Bernheim-Jeune, Paris and Sam Salz, New York
Mme. Leonardo Benatov, Paris (sold: Sotheby's, London, November 7, 1962, lot 82)
O'Hana Gallery, London (acquired at the above sale)
Barnett Shine, London (sold: Sotheby's, London, December 2, 1986, lot 36)
Private Collection, Japan (acquired at the above sale and sold: Sotheby's, New York, May 13, 1997, lot 22)
Private Collection (acquired at the above sale)