- Claude Monet
- Charing Cross Bridge
- Oil on canvas
- 25 1/2 by 31 7/8 in.
- 65 by 81 cm
James Butler (acquired from the artist circa 1921)
Alex Maguy, Paris
Private Collection, New York (acquired from the above in 1974 and sold: Christie's, New York, May 12, 1999, lot 37)
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner
Daniel Wildenstein, Claude Monet, Biographie et Catalogue raisonné, vol. IV, Lausanne, 1985, no. 1550, illustrated p. 169
Daniel Wildenstein, Claude Monet, Catalogue raisonné, vol. III, Cologne, 1996, no. 1550, illustrated p. 670
The Charing Cross railway bridge steeped in morning fog is the subject of this luminous composition from Monet's renowned London series, the most prolific painting campaign of his career. Between 1899 and 1901 Monet made three trips to London, taking a room at the Savoy Hotel on the Victoria Embankment that overlooked the River Thames. With few exceptions, he began his mornings painting the view of Charing Cross and Waterloo Bridges from his hotel room, and in the afternoons he moved his supplies across the river to depict the sunset behind the Houses of Parliament. The ever-changing atmospheric conditions of the mist hovering over the water made it difficult for Monet to work on one picture for too long, compelling him to begin yet another canvas. The resulting compositions are an evanescent mélange of color, light and shadow -- simply put, Impressionist pictures at their finest. At the end of his final trip in 1901, he had nearly 100 'Londons', as he called them, in various states of completion, the most finished of which were twelve views of Waterloo and Charing Cross Bridges.
Monet continued to work on the rest of his London canvases back in his studio in Giverny until 1904, when he finally exhibited a selection of them at Durand-Ruel. Critics heaped praise on the pictures, alleging that Monet's accomplishments rivaled those of J.M.W. Turner, the then-undisputed champion of English landscape painting. According to Georges Lecomte, Monet had never "attained such vaporous subtlety, such powers of abstraction and synthesis." But it was Gustav Kahn who wrote perhaps the most lyrical synopsis in his description of Monet's Charing Cross Bridges: "The Charing Cross Bridge series numbers the fewest paintings. The motif for it is given in an airy vision of the river, where one seems to see light passing, mobile and brief, the fragile shades of dawn. The water is like a mirror on which the vaporous shadows chase and succeed one another -- fragile, slow, harmonies, like those of Schumann, if you will, or of Faure... Like another strain in the symphony, the fog blurs a part of the bridge, consumes it, bites the green reflection that cuts the water like a rigid bar. Here the bridges of the bar cast diffuse shadows, like great, moving, trembling leaves on the green water" (G. Kahn, "L'Exposition de Claude Monet," Gazette des Beaux-Arts, Paris, July 1, 1904).