Louis Bouglé, Paris (acquired from the above on 27th June 1889)
Galerie Durand-Ruel, Paris (acquired from the above in March 1891)
Durand-Ruel Family Collection (from 1928 until 1941)
Private Collection, United States (acquired by 1943)
Acquavella Galleries, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2004
Brussels, Société des XX, 6e exposition des XX, 1889, no. 4
Paris, Galerie Georges Petit, Monet - Rodin, 1889, no. 121
London, Goupil Gallery, Claude Monet, 1889, no. v
Paris, Galerie Durand-Ruel, Tableaux par Claude Monet, 1928, no. 53
Paris, Galerie Durand-Ruel, Exposition de tableaux - Claude Monet, 1935, no. 48
London, Arthur Tooth & Sons Ltd., Selected Pictures by Claude Monet, 1936, no. 16 (titled La Méditerranée)
Paul Robert Eaque, 'Claude Monet', in Le Journal des Arts, 6th July 1888, pp. 2-3
Fernand Bourgeat, 'Paris vivant. À la Galerie Georges Petit', in Le Siècle, 22nd June 1889, p. 2
Jules Antoine, 'Beaux-Arts. Exposition à la Galerie Georges Petit', in Art et Critique, 29th June 1889, no. 5, p. 76
Gustave Geffroy, 'Histoire de l'impressionnisme', in La vie artistique, Paris, 1894, 3e serie, II, p. 80
Gustave Geffroy, Claude Monet, sa vie, son temps, son œuvre, Paris, 1922, illustrated p. 225
Maurice Malingue, Claude Monet, Paris, 1943, illustrated p. 123 (titled La Méditerranée)
John Rewald, 'Theo van Gogh, Goupil and the Impressionists', in Gazette des Beaux-Arts, February 1973, appendix I, listed p. 99
Daniel Wildenstein, Claude Monet. Biographie et catalogue raisonné, Lausanne & Paris, 1979, vol. III, no. 1181, illustrated p. 107; mentioned in pièce justificative no. 116
Luigina Rossi Bortolatto, Tout l'œuvre peint de Monet, 1870-1889, Paris, 1981, no. 325, illustrated p. 109 (erroneously catalogued as W1183)
Daniel Wildenstein, Monet. Catalogue raisonné, Cologne, 1996, vol. III, no. 1181, illustrated p. 446
Monet left Paris for the Mediterranean coastline of France on the 12th January 1888, arriving several days later. On the recommendation of Guy de Maupassant he planned to stay at the Chateau de la Pinède, a hotel popular with artists. As was often the case, Monet did not find the company of his fellow guests very congenial and in this instance he found the group of artists who gathered around the Barbizon painter Henri Harpignies particularly irksome. Monet contented himself by first exploring the area around Antibes-Agay and Trayas to the west, then moving east towards Monte Carlo, before finally settling on five or six motifs (figs. 1 & 2), writing enthusiastically to his wife Alice Hoschedé: ‘The weather is so admirable that it would be a crime not to set to work right away’ (quoted in Monet and the Mediterranean (exhibition catalogue), Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, 1997, p. 42).
In his catalogue raisonné on the artist Daniel Wildenstein notes the location of this work as the Cap d’Antibes, however it belongs to the group of paintings whose precise location is unknown (figs. 3 & 4). It closely relates to Le Grand Bleu à Antibes (fig. 4) with the addition of a couple of small sailing yachts at sea which have the effect of both anchoring and enlivening the composition. In concentrating only on the relationship between land and sea and offering no identifying topographical motif, these works are particularly experimental in a similar way to his Belle-Île paintings of 1884-86. What particularly marks La Méditerranée par vent de mistral out is Monet’s focus on the rich intensity of the blue sea which was the result of the especially clear conditions usually brought by the mistral wind.
It is possible this work was painted towards the end of his time in the south of France. As Joachim Pissarro wrote: ‘As Monet began to plan his departure, he continued to be frustrated by fickle weather: “A curse follows me to the end: there is a splendid sun, but the mistral wind is so strong that it is impossible to stand up in it”. He could scarcely stand to observe such a deep, intense blue, and then was obliged to keep his arms close to his chest due to the weather’ (J. Pissarro, ibid., p. 45). At one point he resorted to tying his easel to the ground in an attempt to paint in the wind, only to discover that his palette and paints were soon full of sand. Nonetheless, he evidently persisted, lured out by the particularly striking climatic conditions – and perhaps waiting for the wind to drop slightly – and the result is the present work.
Monet was transfixed by the brilliance of the light found in Antibes, and although he was occasionally overwhelmed by the challenge of representing it on canvas he had a particularly productive campaign returning to Paris in May with close to forty oils. Discussing the works Monet produced in Antibes, Virginia Spate quotes Baudelaire’s L’invitation au voyage – ‘There, 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-Île in 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 to his friends and family about his difficulties frequently 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’. However, the canvases resulting from his trip to Antibes are testament to Monet’s masterful technique and his ability to reconcile his earlier Impressionist manner with the atmospheric conditions of the South. 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 the 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).
After several weeks of painting in this region, Monet expressed confidence in his work in a letter to his wife Alice, writing 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 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 challenge his abilities and resulted in a remarkable series of works unique within Monet’s œuvre.
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