Christie's - November 7th, 2012 - Lot 3
Christie's New York, Rockefeller Plaza
Sale 2594 Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale
7 November 2012
Estimate $2,000,000 - $3,000,000
Bateaux de pêche, temps calme
signed 'Claude Monet' (lower right)
oil on canvas
25¼ x 21¼ in. (64.1 x 54 cm.)
Painted in 1868
Théodore Duret, Paris.
Mrs. James F. Sutton, New York; sale, The American Art Association, New York, 25-30 April 1895, lot 85.
Durand-Ruel Galleries, New York (acquired at the above sale).
Joanny Benoît Peytel, Paris (1898).
M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., New York (circa 1923).
Comte and Comtesse André de Limur, Washington, D.C. (acquired from the above, circa 1930).
Comte and Comtesse Charles de Limur, San Francisco (by descent from the above, circa 1972).
By descent from the above to the present owners.
M. Malingue, Claude Monet, Monaco, 1943, p. 54 (illustrated, p. 146).
M. Mount, "A Monet Portrait of Jongkind" in Art Quarterly, 1958, pp. 385 and 388 (illustrated, p. 390).
D. Wildenstein, Claude Monet, Biographie et catalogue raisonné, Lausanne, 1974, vol. I, p. 174 (illustrated, p. 175).
D. Wildenstein, Claude Monet, Catalogue raisonné, Lausanne, 1991, vol. V, p. 23.
D. Wildenstein, Monet, Catalogue raisonné, Cologne, 1996, vol. II, p. 60, no. 124 (illustrated).
Berlin, Königliche National-Galerie, 1869.
Prague, Exposition de l'art français, 1923, no. 95.
Paris, M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., Exposition des Peintures de l'école française du XIXe siècle, 1924, p. 13, no. 45 (titled Barques de pêche).
New York, Acquavella Galleries, Inc., Exhibition Claude Monet, October-November 1976, no. 5.
Bateaux de pêche, temps calme is one of three views of fishing fleets at sea that Monet painted between the autumn of 1868 and the spring of 1869 at Etretat, a major resort some sixteen miles northeast of Le Havre (Wildenstein, nos. 124-126). Monet had left Paris for Normandy immediately after the Salon of 1868, where his canvas depicting ships leaving the port of Le Havre had garnered a notice from Zola describing him as a "first-class painter of seascapes" and emphasizing the freshness of his touch (Wildenstein, no. 89; location unknown). He spent the early summer of 1868 with his family in Le Havre, finalizing his submissions to a local exhibition that opened in July; one of the four paintings that he showed there, La Jetée du Havre, received a silver medal despite having been rejected earlier by the Salon jury (Wildenstein, no. 109; sale, Christie's, New York, 12 May 1993, lot 15). Shortly thereafter, Monet sold a life-sized portrait of his mistress Camille to Arsène Houssaye, editor of the periodical L'Artiste, for a commendable eight hundred francs (Wildenstein, no. 65; Kunsthalle Bremen). This good fortune enabled him to bring Camille and the couple's infant son Jean, who were unwelcome among his family, to Normandy for the first time, where they set up house at Etretat. In December, Monet reported to his friend and fellow painter Bazille, "I am surrounded by all the things that I love. I spend my time out of doors on the beach when the weather is bad or when boats go out fishing or else I go into the countryside, which is so beautiful here that I find it perhaps more pleasant in winter than in summer... My desire would be to remain forever in a nice corner of nature like this one" (quoted in P. Tucker, Claude Monet, Life and Art, New Haven, 1995, pp. 36-37).
Monet was evidently pleased by the three paintings of fishing boats that he produced at Etretat, ultimately deciding to submit the largest of them to the 1869 Salon in place of Le Déjeuner, a huge interior scene that had occupied him for much of the winter (Wildenstein, nos. 126 and 132; fig. 1, and Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt). Although both the small fishing villages and the larger ports of the Normandy coast had been transformed by the 1860s into seaside resorts catering to Parisian vacationers, there is little evidence of this momentous change in Monet's work from this decade, and the seascapes from Etretat are no exception. In terms of subject, the paintings of fishing fleets are traditional marines, depicting the time-honored seafaring culture of the region. Monet has even omitted the safe vantage point of a beach or pier to suggest that he too (and by extension, the viewer) is at sea, not a tourist but a native Norman, working in the bracing climate of France's northern coast. Richard Brettell has written, "Collectively, the Norman seascapes from the mid- and late 1860s... convey a powerful natural environment controlled by its native inhabitants with their bodies and their skills in making and maneuvering boats. It is a defiantly seafaring Normandy, in which there are no sandy tourist beaches, no casinos, few pleasure boats... Monet's paintings were completely modern in their facture and bold composition, but their subjects were nearly always the opposite. It was, instead, the modernity of his eye and his sensibility rather than that of his subjects that set Monet's Normandy apart" (Monet in Normandy, exh. cat., Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 2006, pp. 42 and 44).
And nowhere is this modernity of technique more evident than in Bateaux de pêche, temps calme. Unlike Monet's other seascapes from Etretat, which employ a traditional horizontal format, the composition here is vertical, with an elevated vantage point and a high, almost indistinguishable horizon line; the three boats in the foreground, moreover, seem disproportionately large relative to the vessels immediately behind them. The result is a sense of unusually rapid recession into depth, which emphasizes the vast, unfathomable scale of the sea. The concise, abbreviated rendering of forms is far removed from the detailed, descriptive style that Monet had used just a few months earlier at Honfleur and Fécamp (Wildenstein, nos. 116-119; fig. 2). Rather than recalling Jongkind, whom Monet had described at the beginning of the decade as "our only decent painter of seascapes" (quoted in exh. cat., op. cit., 2003, p. 202), Bateaux de pêche pays homage to the deceptively simple and economical style of Manet--the enfant terrible of the 1860s--who had exhibited several seascapes in his solo show in Paris in 1867, which Monet is known to have seen (fig. 3). In contrast to the smooth modeling of conventional painting, Monet's pigment in Bateaux de pêche is laid down in broad, bravura strokes, an early instance of the gestural liberty of brushwork that would soon become one of the central tenets of Impressionism. Robert Herbert has written, "Monet's strokes of paint call attention to themselves and therefore to the artist's gestures, for here at Etretat, half-way through the first decade of his mature activity, Monet was sharing in the development of Impressionism's key feature: exposed brushwork that seems to capture a new spontaneity of vision in front of nature" (Monet on the Normandy Coast: Tourism and Painting, 1867-1886, New Haven, 1994, pp. 24-25).
The first owner of the present painting was Théodore Duret, an eminent critic whom Richard Brettell has called "the first conscientious historian of Impressionism and the father of Impressionist studies" (Pissarro and Pontoise: The Painter in a Landscape, New Haven, 1990, p. 164). A man of independent means, heir to a family business manufacturing cognac and other spirits, Duret began to take an interest in art in the early 1860s, after seeing works by Courbet and Corot in the collection of his cousin Etienne Baudry. Duret met Manet in 1865, and the two men quickly forged a close friendship; in 1867, Manet painted a full-length portrait of the dapper young journalist (Rouart and Wildenstein, no. 132; Musée du Petit Palais, Paris). By the end of the decade, Duret had become an ardent supporter of the Impressionists, placing his pen at their service, purchasing their work, and encouraging his friends to do the same. In a series of reviews of the 1870 Salon, Duret lauded the Impressionists as "those newcomers who seem to have the greatest future before them" (quoted in J. Rewald, The History of Impressionism, New York, 1961, p. 244), and in 1878, he published the first major study of their work, Histoire des peintres impressionnistes. Duret met Monet after the Franco-Prussian War and bought his first painting by the artist in 1873 for the healthy sum of 1200 francs (Wildenstein, no. 94; Musée d'Art et d'Histoire, Geneva). When Duret, faced with mounting financial pressure, offered the bulk of his collection at auction in 1894, he opted to keep the present canvas. He was forced to sell the following year, however, and the painting entered the collection of James Sutton, one of the founders of the American Art Association and a key player in the marketing of Impressionism in New York starting in the mid-1880s.