Sotheby's - February 8th,2012 - Lot 5
Sotheby's London UK
Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale
08 Feb 2012, 07:00 PM
ESTIMATE 4,500,000-6,500,000 GBP
Lot Sold: 8,217,250 GBP
L'ENTRÉE DE GIVERNY EN HIVER--
signed Claude Monet (lower left)
oil on canvas
65.5 by 85.5cm.
26 3/4 by 33 5/8 in.
Painted in 1885.
Bernheim-Jeune, Paris (acquired by 1924)
Henri Canonne, Paris (acquired from the above in 1924)
Thence by descent to the present owner
Paris, Musée de l'Orangerie, Claude Monet, 1930, no. 72
Paris, Galerie Schmit, Cent ans de peinture française, 1969, no. 87, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Arsène Alexandre, La Collection Canonne, Paris, 1930, illustrated pl. 3 (titled Neige aux environs de Paris)
Daniel Wildenstein, Claude Monet, biographie et catalogue raisonné, Lausanne & Paris, 1979, vol. II, no. 967, illustrated p. 155
Daniel Wildenstein, Monet, Catalogue raisonné, Cologne, 1996, vol. II, no. 967, illustrated (with incorrect measurements)
Resplendant with the glimmer and frosty sheen of snow and ice, L'Entrée de Giverny en hiver, painted in 1885, depicts the trodden road leading into Giverny, the town on the outskirts of Paris that would become synonymous with the most innovative compositions of the artist's career. Monet moved with his family to Giverny in April 1883 and remained there for the rest of his life. By 1890, he had become financially successful enough to buy a house and a large garden, which provided the site for his legendary Nymphéas compositions at the turn of the century. In the present work, we can see the artist leaning towards a more radicalised depiction of the natural world that would effectively establish him as a pillar of the avant-garde, as the dramatic interplay of light and shadow here transforms the landscape into a sensory montage of textures and colours.
L'Entrée de Giverny en hiver is one of Monet's first significant depictions of his new environs and belongs to an important series of oils that the artist completed in the beginning of 1885. In those first years after settling in Giverny with his family, Monet spent many of his painting campaigns away from home, travelling to Italy and the south of France and later to Etretat in Normandy. 'One always needs a certain amount of time to get familiar with a new landscape' Monet later explained, implying that his time away from Giverny allowed him to recalibrate his new objectives in landscape painting (quoted in Daniel Wildenstein, op. cit., 1996, vol. I, p. 192). By January of 1885, he was ready to meet the challenges of his new environment, when a heavy snowstorm recast the region in colours of wintery blue, silver and grey. Before the ice and snow melted, Monet rushed to paint the wintery spectacle, producing nine oils including the present work (ibid., nos. 961-968). The subject of winter landscapes had fascinated Monet early in his career, and his first explorations of this theme can be found in his depictions of Honfleur in 1865 and 1867 (fig. 1). In 1868, Léon Billot gave an account of Monet painting out-of-doors in the snow, a vivid proof of the artist's dedication to capturing the effects of light on the frozen landscape: 'It was during winter, after several snowy days, when communications had almost been interrupted. The desire to see the countryside beneath its white shroud had led us across the fields. It was cold enough to split rocks. We glimpsed a little heater, then an easel, then a gentleman swathed in three overcoats, with gloved hands, his face half-frozen. It was M. Monet studying an aspect of the snow' (L. Billot, 'Exposition des Beaux-Arts', in Journal du Havre, 9th October 1868).
Monet would continue to produce effet de neige paintings through the 1870s, particularly in Argenteuil (fig. 2). The unique properties of winter light, filtered through the density of chilly fog and reflected off the particles of encrusted snow, presented temporal and tonal challenges that appealed to Monet's most profound sensibilties as a landscape painter. When he completed L'Entrée de Giverny en hiver in 1885, he had established himself as the leading landscape painter among the Impressionist group of artists, and his series pictures from this era, including those of Antibes and the Normandy coast, exemplified his interest in the transformative power of the elements on the natural world. The present work belongs to a major series devoted to the ever-changing appearance of the landscape in winter, and his success with this theme would ultimately inspire the compositions he painted in Norway in the following decade.
The preoccupation with snowy landscapes would extend to several of the Impressionist painters, including [[Alfred Sisley]] and Camille Pissarro, though Monet's effet de neige paintings are often viewed as the most successful examples of the theme. Writing about Monet's snow scenes, Eliza E. Rathbone observed: 'The Impressionists, and above all Monet, determined to record the complete spectrum: deep snow in brilliant sunshine, creating the bluest of blue shadows; snow under a low, grey winter sky that shrouds nature in a single tonality; landscapes so deep in snow that all details are obscured, evoking a silent world; even snow melting along a country road at sunset; or, perhaps most striking, a sky filled with snow falling. Of all the Impressionists, Monet painted the largest number of snowscapes and the greatest variety of site, time of day, quality of light, and quality of snow itself. He was not only interested in a relatively traditional conception of a snowy landscape, but he found beauty in unexpected phenomena of winter. He brought to his snowscapes his desire to experiment both with new technique and with formal invention' (E. E. Rathbone, 'Monet, Japonisme, and Effets de Neige', in Impressionists in Winter (exhibition catalogue), The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C., 1998-99, p. 25). For most of its history, the present work has been in the famed Canonne collection, formed by the Parisian pharmacist and industrialist Henri Canonne (1867-1961). Canonne became an avid purchaser of Impressionist, Neo and Post- Impressionist and Nabis paintings in the 1920s, mainly through the Paris-based Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, forming an impressive collection of works by Monet, Renoir, Cézanne, Signac and Bonnard. Among his most important pictures were those by Monet, including the present work, and several paintings from the major series of Nymphéas and Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Rouen, all published in the 1930 monograph of the Canonne collection.