Victor Desfossés, Paris, (acquired in 1888)
A. Bellino, Paris
The American Art Association, New York (acquired from the above by 1892. Sold: The American Art Association, New York, 25th-30th April 1895, lot 152)
Thomas L. Manson, New York (acquired by 1908)
E. & A. Milch, New York (acquired by 1922)
J. K. Newman, New York (acquired circa 1924. Sold: The American Art Association, New York, 6th December 1935, lot 40)
M. J. Failing (purchased at the above sale)
Mrs Mansfield Ferry, New York
Private Collection, U.S.A. (by descent from the above. Sold: Sotheby’s, New York, 11th November 1987, lot 6)
Private Collection, U.S.A. (sold: Sotheby’s, New York, 1st May 1996, lot 27)
Purchased at the above sale by the late owner
New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1908 (on loan)
New York, Fearon Galleries, French Painters of the 19th Century, 1924, no. 6
New York, The Brooklyn Museum of Art, Monet and the Mediterranean, 1997-98, no. 60, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Gustave Geffroy, La vie artistique 3e série, Histoire de l'Impressionisme, Paris, 1894, vol. II, discussed p. 79
Gustave Geffroy, Claude Monet, sa vie, son temps, son œuvre, Paris, 1922, discussed pp. 278-279
John Rewald, ‘Theo van Gogh, Goupil and the Impressionists’, in Gazette des Beaux-Arts, vol. LXXXI, January 1973, appendix I, mentioned p. 99
Daniel Wildenstein, Claude Monet, Biographie et catalogue raisonné, Lausanne & Paris, 1979, vol. III, no. 1171, illustrated
Daniel Wildenstein, Monet, Catalogue Raisonné, Cologne, 1996, vol. III, no. 1171, illustrated p. 441
Monet i luoghi della pittura (exhibition catalogue), Casa dei Carraresi, Treviso, 2001, illustrated p. 179
Transfixed by the brilliance of the light, and occasionally overwhelmed by the challenge of representing it on canvas, Monet had a particularly productive campaign in Antibes, returning to Paris in May with close to forty canvases. Discussing the works Monet painted on the Côte d'Azur, Virginia Spate quotes Baudelaire’s L’invitation au voyage – ‘There is nothing else but grace and measure, richness, quietness, and pleasure’, stating: ‘This is indeed the mood of these paintings, for, in the more constant Mediterranean weather, Monet could afford to concentrate for longer than he could on northern coasts on identifying the pigments with which to create the impression of intensely still coloured light’ (V. Spate, The Colour of Time – Claude Monet, London, 1992, p. 191).
Paul Hayes Tucker has speculated that by travelling throughout France in the 1880s Monet was attempting to decentralise Impressionism which for the most part had been based in Paris. ‘When queried in 1880 about his defection [from the Impressionists], he asserted, "I am still an Impressionist and will always remain one". Unlike some of his former colleagues such as Pissarro, who experimented with the pointillist techniques of the Post-Impressionists, Monet staunchly maintained that belief. Indeed, he put it into practice in an unprecedented way, travelling extensively during the decade to paint some of the most spectacular and varied sites in all of France, from the black, ocean-pounded coast of Belle-Isle on the Atlantic, south of Brittany to the verdant shores of Antibes on the Mediterranean. The places he chose had dramatically different geological formations, weather conditions, lighting effects, and temperature ranges. They also possessed strikingly different moods, mythologies, associations and appeals. These challenging conditions led Monet to write frequently to his friends and family about his difficulties throughout the decade. "It is so difficult, so delicate, so tender [in Antibes]", he told Berthe Morisot in 1888, "particularly for someone like me who is inclined toward tougher subjects'" (P. H. Tucker, Monet in the '90s. The Series Paintings, New Haven & London, 1989, pp. 18-19). The remarkable affinity the painter made between his Impressionist ideals and the brilliant light of the South is testament to Monet’s masterful technique. As Joachim Pissarro observed: ‘The status of Monet's painting in Antibes changed as fast as the weather. One day he would work admirably, "thanks to the eternal and resplendent sun”, and the next a terrible wind would make work impossible. Nevertheless, Monet worked relentlessly. On 1st February, Monet reported that he had "worked all day without a break: it is definitely so beautiful, but so difficult as well!”’ (J. Pissarro, Monet and the Mediterranean (exhibition catalogue), op. cit., p. 42).
The present work is closely related to the version in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, also entitled Antibes, vue du plateau Notre-Dame (fig. 5). In both canvases the town of Antibes is seen from the slopes of the Garoupe, somewhat further east than the four views of the town seen from the gardens of La Salis (Wildenstein nos. 1167-1170). Discussing the present work, Joachim Pissarro writes: ‘The mountains here are given a prominent position. In Antibes seen from Plateau Notre-Dame [the present work] especially, they dominate every element of the scenery and seem to dictate the chromatic harmonies and contrasts. The purples, blues and pinks of the stone, heightened and offset by each other, echo throughout the canvas: they are reiterated in the deep azurine blue surface of the sea; in a few mauve clouds; in the surface of the ground; and in the quivering blue leaves of the shaded tree. The Boston painting, by comparison, is chromatically much more suffused and discreet’ (J. Pissarro, ibid., p. 132).
Daniel Wildenstein described the settings of these pictures as showing 'the walled town of Antibes with the Bastion of St André, seen from the beach at Ponteil looking northwards. The view is dominated by the belltower of the cathedral and by the tower of the Château Grimaldi. In the foreground is the tip of the Islet, and in the background the Alps which straddle the border between France and Italy’ (D. Wildenstein, op. cit., 1996, p. 438). After several weeks of working in this region, Monet expressed confidence in his work in a letter to Alice Hoschedé written in early February: ‘What I will bring back from here will be pure, gentle sweetness: some white, some pink, and some blue, and all this surrounded by the fairylike air’ (quoted in J. Pissarro, ibid., p. 44). For the artist whose entire career was dedicated to exploring the quality of light and its effect on water, the rich, saturated colours of the Mediterranean provided an ideal environment in which to paint, and resulted in a remarkable series of works unique within Monet’s œuvre.
The achievements Monet had made with these works were immediately appreciated by his admirers when they were first exhibited shortly after Monet's return to Paris. Not averse to creating rivalry between the dealers who were interested in the development of his career, Monet released ten Antibes paintings to Theo van Gogh who helped Boussod & Valadon to exhibit them in June and July 1888, rather than consigning them to his more regular dealer Charles Durand-Ruel. Writing about the show, Gustave Geffroy noted the startling colouration the works possessed, ‘Changing colours of the sea, green, blue, grey, almost white – vastness of the rainbow-coloured mountains – with colours, clouded, snow-covered – pale silver foliage of the olive trees, black greenery of the pines, blinding red of the earth – silhouette of the dewy golden town, permeated by light’ (quoted in V. Spate, ibid., p. 193). Antibes, vue du plateau Notre-Dame subsequently became part of a number of distinguished collections, including that of Thomas Lincoln Manson, a friend of John Singer Sargent, and the Ferry family in America, before being acquired by the late owner in 1996.
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