Claude Monet had spent the summer of 1888 painting a series of radiant views of Antibes and the Mediterranean Sea in a symphony of colours capturing the chaleur and brilliant light of the south of France. Such was contemporary interest in Monet's Antibes project that Vincent van Gogh urged his brother Theo to go and visit Monet in the South. Van Gogh's letters to Theo in the late 1880s are full of glowing remarks about Monet's skill and refer regularly to Van Gogh's aspiration to be considered one day as pre-eminent as the great Impressionist. There is little question that Vincent's enthusiasm for Monet was shared by Theo.
In the spring of 1888 Monet's negotiations with his dealer Charles Durand-Ruel had rapidly broken down and Theo, who was then managing Galerie Boussod Valadon & Cie grasped this opportunity. On 4th June 1888, he bought ten Antibes paintings for FF11,900 and quickly organized an exhibition of these ten superb seascapes at 19 boulevard Monmartre in Paris.
Soon after the exhibition opened, Monet returned to his beloved Giverny where he had executed a series of beautiful open landscapes the previous year. These were very personal canvases in which he had portrayed several members of his family, including the Hoschédé sisters, Blanche and Suzannne. The most striking of these were painted at Limetz beside the Epte river, in the shade of the magnificent series of poplar trees. Returning to Giverny and the planes of Limetz, Monet was struck by the incredible beauty of the trees and the striking shadows that they cast. With the experience of the unpopulated Antibes pictures behind him, Monet decided to paint the poplars of Limetz in the same way as the pines of Antibes. The result is a series of beautiful luminescent landscapes which have a poise and elegance never previously seen in his canvases.
Theo's show at boulevard Monmartre was a tremendous success. The dazzling views of Antibes had captured the imagination of critics and collectors alike and by December, Theo was hungry to buy more pictures from Monet for a show which he planned to stage in Paris the following year.
The present picture was amongst a group of recent works which Theo bought as a group in December 1888. It is the most complex and poised of all the Limetz compositions of this period. The brilliance of the light effect is matched by the complexity of the geometrical structure of the landscape, formed by the verticals of the trees and the horizontals of the shadows that they cast. As a measure of his avant-gardisme, Monet also toys with 'Divisionism' in the present canvas: aside from the stippled paint effect in the trees, he also includes a dappled colour band at the leading edge of the canvas which created an illusion that the viewer is standing beside Monet as he paints in the shadow of one of the great poplars of Limetz.
The present work was exhibited twice in 1889, the second occasion being at the Galerie Georges Petit in the extensive Monet-Rodin exhibition (fig. 1). Since that time, Prairie de Limetz has never been on public exhibition.
Prairie de Limetz
Oil on canvas
THE PROPERTY OF A FRENCH PRIVATE COLLECTOR
Signed and dated 'Claude Monet 88' (lower left)
Paris, Galerie Boussod, Valadon et Cie., Claude Monet, February 1889.
Paris, Galerie Georges Petit, Monet-Rodin, June-July 1889, no. 107.
28¾ x 36¼ in. (73 x 92 cm.)
J. Rewald, 'Théo Van Gogh, Goupil and the Impressionists', Gazette des Beaux-Arts, vol. I, January-February 1973, p. 99.
D. Wildenstein, Claude Monet, biographie et catalogue rasionné, vol. III, Lausanne-Paris, 1979, no. 1201, p. 114 (illustrated p. 115).
D. Wildenstein, Monet, catalogue raisonné, vol. III, Cologne, 1996, no. 1201, p. 457 (illustrated p. 456).
Galerie Boussod, Valadon et Cie., Paris, acquired directly from the artist in December 1888.
M. Grunbaum, Paris.
Mme Philippe Clément, Paris.
M. Kaganovitch, Paris.
Acquired by the grandfather of the present owner from the above circa 1950.