Paul Gallimard, Paris
Paul Cassirer, Berlin (acquired from the estate of the above in June 1929)
Knoedler & Co., New York (acquired from the above on 5th August 1931)
Joseph T. Ryerson, Jr., Chicago & New York (acquired from the above in October 1935)
Mrs Hugh N. Kirkland, Palm Beach (widow of the above. Acquired circa 1957)
Mrs Charles Breed (née Ryerson), New York (acquired by descent from the above circa 1975)
Lefevre Fine Art, London
Georges Ortiz-Patiño, Geneva (acquired from the above)
Jamie Ortiz-Patiño, New York (brother of the above. Sold: Sotheby’s, New York, 9th May 1989, lot 2)
Purchased at the above sale by the present owner
St. Louis, St. Louis Art Museum & Minneapolis, The Minneapolis Institute of Art, Claude Monet, 1957, no. 30
Palm Beach, Society of the Four Arts, Monet, 1958, no. 13
New York, The Museum of Modern Art & Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Claude Monet, Seasons and Moments, 1960, no. 6
San Francisco, California Palace of the Legion of Honor, Man: Glory, Jest and Riddle, 1964 (titled Argenteuil: River Scene with Figures)
San Francisco, California Palace of the Legion of Honor; Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara Museum of Art & San Diego, Fine Arts Gallery of San Diego, Claude Monet, Paintings in California Collections, 1974
New York, Acquavella Galleries, Claude Monet, 1976, no. 6, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum Vincent van Gogh, Monet in Holland, 1986, no. 8, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Daniel Wildenstein, Claude Monet, Biographie et catalogue raisonné, Lausanne & Paris, 1974, vol. I, no. 138, illustrated
Daniel Wildenstein, Claude Monet, Biographie et calalogue raisonné, Lausanne & Paris, 1974, vol. V, mentioned p. 23
Daniel Wildenstein, Monet, Catalogue Raisonné, Cologne, 1996, no. 138, illustrated in colour p. 67
Monet und Camille. Frauenportraits im Impressionismus (exhibition catalogue), Kunsthalle Bremen, Bremen, 2005, illustrated in colour p. 27
Mary Mathews Gedo, Monet and His Muse: Camille Monet in the Artist’s Life, Chicago, 2010, mentioned p. 256
For many years this painting was believed to represent the riverbank at La Grenouillère on the Seine, and was included as such in both the first and second editions of Daniel Wildenstein’s catalogue raisonné. Discussing the present work, Wildenstein notes: ‘The way in which the water and the tree are treated led us to classify this painting with those depicting La Grenouillère which were produced in 1869’. Wildenstein concedes that various anomalous details highlighted by the authors of the Monet in Holland catalogue, more definitely locate the setting as Zaandam in 1871; ‘Yet the atmosphere, the boaters and the young women, as well as the architecture of the houses on the opposite bank, look too much like the banks of the Seine, and a location near the Ile de la Grande Jatte, as was originally proposed, cannot be ruled out. On the other hand, the date may well be somewhat later than our previous suggestion of 1869’ (D. Wildenstein, op. cit., 1996, p. 67). The striking stylistic similarities between the present work and the paintings of La Grenouillère (fig. 3) and its counterparts is, perhaps in part, due to Monet’s successful integration of figures into the composition, a feat rarely accomplished by Impressionist painters.
The celebrated La Grenouillère paintings were executed in 1869, when Monet and Renoir travelled to the bathing resort on the banks of the Seine to create studies for large scale paintings to submit to the Salon (figs. 1 & 2). Salacious stories may have drawn the two painters to the notorious pleasure-spot but they found a haven of bourgeois sensibility. Following in the wake of Manet’s Olympia and Le dejeuner sur l’herbe (fig. 3), the young artists had gone in search of provocative material to draw attention from the jury and audience alike. The enchanting water-side setting appealed to Monet’s love of visual panorama, and he responded to it in a new, freer manner of representation. His paintings focused on the setting rather than the subject. Jetties and pavilions, gently bobbing boats and the play of dappled light on water are rendered with delight and deft painterly touches. The depiction of the bourgeoisie at leisure became a frequent feature of Monet’s works which helped to suggest the contemporary nature of his work.
During the early years of the 1870s Monet’s style continued to evolve and he explored new subjects and continued to develop his technical innovations. The Franco-Prussian war forced the artist and his young family to seek safety in England where he found the companionship of other artists, such as Pissarro and Daubigny. Whilst in London Monet spent a great deal of time exploring the galleries, especially those containing works by the great English landscape painters Constable and Turner, and in Holland he took the opportunity to visit the Rijksmuseum and the Frans Hals Museum. However, although traditional landscape painting held a certain allure for Monet, other more exotic influences were at the forefront of his mind during the formative years of his career. The artist and his contemporaries were fascinated by contemporary Japanese art which profoundly affected their own. The inventive perspectives and clarity found in the works of Japanese artists, such as Hiroshige, provided French painters with new impetus to challenge the Salon led style of the elder generation. The present work possesses a strong compositional rhythm which parallels that of the complex asymmetry evident in Japanese woodcuts. However, the evolution of Impressionism is also manifest in L’Embarcadère. The artist’s use of colour and the areas of lively brushwork represent his gradual development of ideas and attempts to evoke the atmosphere of the scene. Monet includes subtle, but evocative, signifiers of the weather in the full sails of the river-boats, glistening yellow painted houses and the cool relief of the shaded river-bank.
On 2nd June 1871 Monet wrote to his friend Camille Pissarro: ‘We have finally arrived at the end of our journey, after a rather unpleasant crossing. We traversed almost the whole length of Holland, and to be sure, what I saw of it seemed far more beautiful than it is said to be. Zaandam is particularly remarkable and there is enough to paint there for a lifetime,’ and again on the 17th; ‘It is marvellous for painting here; there is everything you can find de plus amusant. Houses of all colours, hundreds of windmills and ravishing boats […] and with all this very fine weather, I already have several canvases on the go’ (quoted in op. cit., (exhibition catalogue) Rijksmuseum, Vincent van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, 1986, p. 99). The Monet family lived in Zaandam for four months over the summer of 1871. Zaandam was famous for its many mills which performed myriad functions; crushing, pumping, sawing and turning every conceivable material. Whilst his wife Camille gave French conversation lessons to the wealthy Van de Stadt family, her husband concentrated on his art. Relatively free of financial worries because of a small inheritance from his late father, Monet produced a number of pictures of the town and its environs in a boldly inventive style.
Once settled, Monet worked systematically through a series of twenty-five views that explored several areas within and surrounding Zaandam (figs. 4 & 5). For the most part the artist focused his attention upon the archetypical motifs of the Dutch landscape, canals, mills, and boats, exploring Holland’s unique environment. Discussing Monet’s achievements in Holland Ronald Pickvance wrote: ‘Monet captures the Dutchness, not merely externally – of fishing boat and windmill, town house and luchthuis, river and canal – but also the delicate enveloping light and atmosphere, subtly different from the Ile de France. The superb manner in which he registers the immense and often changing Dutch skies is sufficient proof of this’ (R. Pickvance in ibid, p. 101).
The evidence to suggest that it was executed in Holland as presented by Ronald Pickvance is compelling. In preparing the catalogue for the 1986 exhibition Pickvance traced Monet’s route through Holland comparing his paintings with contemporaneous photographic resources to pinpoint the actual places Monet painted. The present work was apparently executed at Westzijde 78 on the river Zaan. Directly behind the group of figures stands the luchthuis with its distinctive cupola and balcony, which is clearly visible in an old postcard from circa 1890 (fig. 6). In 1871 the Garden House at Westzijde 78 was owned by Jacob and Aagtje Dam, and was a little further down the river from the landing stage of Westzijde 28 where Monet had painted La Zaan à Zaandam (fig. 7). Both the present work and La Zaan à Zaandam feature a female figure soberly dressed in black, but carrying a vivid pink parasol, which Pickvance suggests represents the artist’s first wife Camille Doncieux (fig. 8). Monet had married Camille in Paris in 1870, although they already had a son, Jean, a few years earlier. Camille was one of the few individuals close to Monet who was represented in paint in various stages of his career. A professional model, Camille had first come to Monet’s attention in 1865 and from then on she featured in a wide range of works from portraits, family groups and scenes of modern life. Discussing the present work and its counterpart Pickvance states: ‘Camille herself seems to be present again in this painting. Indeed, she is wearing the same dress as she was in the preceding picture: black cloth, white collar and manches, black velvet bow, and a little queue. While her features cannot be distinguished on this scale, she must have been the model in both paintings. Topographically and in this detail of Camille, this painting has to be placed in Zaandam’ (R. Pickvance in ibid., p. 118).
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