H.R.H. The Maharanee of Baroda (sold: Palais Galliéra, Paris, 30th November 1961, lot 11)
Sale: Palais Galliéra, Paris, 12th December 1962, lot 54
Private Collection, Paris (purchased at the above sale)
Private Collection (by descent from the above. Sold: Christie's, New York, 9th May 2007, lot 19)
Purchased at the above sale by the present owner
Daniel Wildenstein, Monet, catalogue raisonné, Cologne, 1996, vol. II, no. 690, illustrated p. 259
David Joel, Monet at Vétheuil and on the Norman Coast, 1878-1883, Woodbridge, 2002, mentioned p. 132
Virginia Spate, The Colour of Time: Claude Monet, London, 1992, p. 144
La porte du jardin à Vétheuil depicts a view of Monet’s garden at Vétheuil (fig. 1), a small village situated along the Seine, where the artist and his family lived from September 1878 until December 1881. This picturesque location had been the site of some of Monet’s most successful Impressionist landscapes of the late 1870s, and continued to fascinate him well into his later career. The natural beauty of the region was of great appeal to the artist, as was the impressive Medieval architecture that could be seen from many points in the surrounding area. Of particular interest to him were the rigid shapes of buildings, most noticeably that of the imposing 10th century church of Notre Dame de Vétheuil, juxtaposed against the patchwork of the landscape. In 1878, and again in 1901, Monet executed a number of iconic views of Vétheuil, showing the village as seen from across the river, with the fragmented reflection of the church and its environs appearing in the ripples of water.
The house in Vétheuil was a shared household between Monet's family and his patrons Ernest and Alice Hoschedé, and the artist of course took particular interest in cultivating a garden. Evidently delighted by its splendour, in the summer 1881 Monet painted two oils depicting Alice seated outdoors and reading, surrounded by lush vegetation (D. Wildenstein, op. cit., nos. 680 & 681; fig. 2). He also executed four paintings showing the garden and the steps leading towards the house which is partially hidden by the sunflowers (ibid., nos. 682-685; fig. 3). For the present work, Monet has turned his easel in the opposite direction, and standing in the garden has painted the gate and the view beyond it. Discussing this group of works, Virginia Spate wrote: ‘This was the first time he had painted the Vétheuil garden, although Taboureux who visited him in 1880 found it sufficiently remarkable to comment on his use of masses of “natural flowers”. […] In paintings of the garden at Vétheuil, [Monet] insisted upon the presence of the fence, whose emphatic rail and palings sharply mark off the world of the domestic garden from that which lies beyond’ (V. Spate, The Colour of Time: Claude Monet, London, 1992, p. 144).
At the end of the summer 1881 Monet travelled north-west to the Normandy coast, where he painted the seascape at Le Havre and Trouville. David Joel writes that he executed the present work and its companion piece La porte du jardin on his return to Vétheuil in September: ‘The gardens were still full of colour and he made two paintings of the garden gateway to the river. In one of them, [the present work], a little girl, probably Germaine, is leaning against the right-hand gate post’ (D. Joel, Monet at Vétheuil and on the Norman Coast, 1878-1883, Woodbridge, 2002, p. 132). With its lively palette of green, blue and yellow tones, La porte du jardin à Vétheuil beautifully renders the atmosphere of a bright sunny day. The composition is dominated by the garden gate in the centre and the fence extending to the left and right edge of the canvas, their pronounced vertical and horizontal lines in stark contrast to the wild vegetation surrounding them, both the bushes that occupy the foreground and the branches that appear to hang from above. In the distance, across the river, Monet has painted a silhouette of the town of Lavacourt.
Christoph Becker wrote about Monet’s garden paintings executed in 1881: ‘That year Monet’s garden also flourished magnificently. Anyone going to the garden had to cross the road and go through a gate at the top of a flight of stone steps leading down to a grassy area. On either side of the steps there were several rows of sunflowers which had shot up in June. On the lower steps and on the grass were the already familiar six large, blue-patterned plant-pots, densely planted with red gladioli. […] The advantage of having one’s own garden was that a motif could be arranged for the purpose of painting, in a carefully planned natural setting, and right by where the artist lived. When a journalist asked if he might enter Monet’s studio in Vétheuil, Monet was immediately indignant: “My studio! But I’ve never had one, and I don’t understand how anyone could shut themselves into a room”’ (C. Becker, Monet’s Garden (exhibition catalogue), Kunsthaus, Zurich, 2004-05, p. 39). Indeed, the present work is a great example of Monet’s paintings executed en plein air, showing his delight at depicting nature in all its splendour.
This work has been requested for the forthcoming exhibition The Enchanted Garden to be held at the Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne from June to October 2018.
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