Lot 61
  • 61

Claude Monet

3,000,000 - 4,000,000 GBP
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  • Claude Monet
  • signed Claude Monet and dated 94 (lower left)
  • oil on canvas
  • 65 by 92cm.
  • 25 5/8 by 36 1/4 in.


(possibly) Boussod, Valadon et Cie., Paris (acquired from the artist in May 1895)
Edward N. Gibbs, New York (acquired by 1898)
General & Mrs Charles H. Sherril, New York (by descent from the above. Sold: Sotheby Parke Bernet, New York, 23rd October 1974, lot 212)
Michael L. Klein, USA (purchased at the above sale)
Sale: Sotheby's, New York, 15th November 1989, lot 36
Purchased at the above sale by the present owner


(possibly) Paris, Galerie Durand-Ruel, Monet, Paris, 1895, no. 21


Gustave Geffroy, Claude Monet, sa vie, son temps, son œuvre, Paris, 1922, p. 209
Lionello Venturi, Les Archives de l'Impressionnisme, Paris, 1939, vol. I, pp. 357 & 359
Daniel Wildenstein, Claude Monet, biographie et catalogue raisonné, Paris & Lausanne, 1979, vol. III, no. 1388, illustrated p. 181
Daniel Wildenstein, Claude Monet, biographie et catalogue raisonné, Paris & Lausanne, 1991, vol. V, mentioned p. 49
Daniel Wildenstein, Monet, Catalogue Raisonné, Cologne, 1996, vol. III, no. 1388, illustrated p. 575


The canvas is unlined and the edges have been strip-lined. Apart from a few very small spots of retouching at the edges, a small area of retouching in the sky in the upper right corner and two very small spots of retouching in the trees in the upper right, visible under ultra-violet light, this work is in very good condition. Colours: Overall fairly accurate in the printed catalogue illustration, although slightly fresher in the original.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

During the spring of 1894 Monet repeatedly addressed the theme of reflection in paintings of the Seine. Starting with a few sublimely simple views of the river at Port-Villez before moving downstream to tackle the more varied riverbanks at Vernon, Monet devoted a large proportion of his output that year to the French countryside surrounding his home at Giverny. L’Eglise de Vernon, temps gris is a masterful evocation of the early morning atmosphere and celebrates the gothic splendour of the church and setting. The composition is neatly divided by the water’s edge, above and below it the majestic church emerges from the mist.

Monet first introduced ecclesiastical buildings into a few canvases painted in the 1870s and they remained a source of inspiration for many years. In 1883 he produced three paintings that depicted Notre-Dame de Vernon. These sunlit pictures captured the different aspects of the church and its position amongst the town above the river (fig. 1). The present work was produced ten years later during the peak of Monet's project of series paintings; using a small boat he rowed out into the middle of the river and painted seven canvases that focused on capturing the ephemeral effect of mist and light rather than the architectural details (D. Wildenstein, op. cit., 1996. nos. 1386-1391a; fig. 2). In the present work the conditions depicted are delightfully transient, caught in balance between the deep fog and bright sunshine.

Discussing the context surrounding Monet’s decision to paint the church at Vernon upon completion of his series of paintings of the façade of Rouen Cathedral, Virginia Spate writes: ‘The “terribly hard and arid” labour of the Cathedrals seem to have made him react against the more mechanistic aspects of the serial method, and to seek alternative modes of consciousness in which recourse to memory made the representation of the passage of light over a motif “less fugitive… more ordinary… more durable”. While completing the Cathedrals, Monet had returned to a motif he had painted when he first arrived in Giverny, the church seen across the river at Vernon. The six paintings he did of another religious building bathed in light show clearly differentiated atmospheric effects, rather than the infinite succession of “moments” of the Cathedral series. Instead of thick pastes, he used delicate, evanescent hazes of colour that fuse every form into a single luminous substance which somehow suggests a light existing in time rather than a fragment of its continuity as in the Cathedrals’ (V. Spate, The Colour of Time – Claude Monet, London, 1992, p. 232).

In an interview with a journalist Monet revealed the inspiration behind the triumphant canvases depicting churches from 1894. He stated that when he first painted the Notre-Dame de Vernon, ‘I discovered the curious silhouette of a church, and I undertook to paint it. It was the beginning of summer… foggy fresh mornings were followed by sudden outbursts of sunshine whose hot rays could only slowly dissolve the mist surrounding every crevice of the edifice and covering the golden stones with an ideally vaporous envelope’ (quoted in Paul H. Tucker, Claude Monet. Life and Art, 1995, New Haven & London, p. 153). His poetic evocation of the temporal conditions that so inspired his work aptly suits the subsequent beauty of the atmospheric effects achieved in the L’Eglise de Vernon series. Paul Tucker suggests that Monet’s disregard for fact over sentiment reflected his desire to create a sense of ‘underlying continuity in his work. Moreover it separates the pictures from their immediate predecessors and Monet’s aspirations of the moment’ (P. H. Tucker, ibid., p. 153).