- Claude Monet
- Glaçons, effet blanc
- Signed and dated Claude Monet 94 (lower right)
- Oil on canvas
Edmond Decap, Paris, 1894 (acquired from the above in 1894)
Private Collection , France
Private Collection, Asia (circa 1980)
Duhamel Fine Arts, Paris
Acquired through the above by the present owner
Paris, Pinacothèque de Paris, long-term loan until February 2013
Daniel Wildenstein, Monet Vie et Oeuvre, Genève, 1979, vol. III, no. 1337, illustrated p. 162-63
Daniel Wildenstein, Monet Catalogue Raisonné, Cologne, 1996, vol. III, no. 1337, p. 544, illustrated p. 543
Monet’s Bennecourt series was his third attempt at depicting the transformation of the frozen river. Earlier depictions at Bougival in 1868 and then at Lavacourt, near Vétheuil, in 1879-80, mark his fascination with this subject and the gripping effect of the subject on his psyche. These scenes were meditations on the cycles of life and the relentless passage of time, and the artist’s apparent awe with the grandeur of nature. Paul Tucker suggests that Monet’s decision to focus on the ice floes yet again was an attempt to “reinvigorate himself, even to the point of painting outdoors in temperatures that were well below freezing. They are at once elegiac and soothing, appropriately familiar in their composition and handling while striking in their color and their chilling atmospheric effects” (P.H. Tucker, Monet in the ‘90s, The Series Paintings, Boston, 1989, p. 169).
Monet’s series paintings from the 1890s are widely considered his finest and most innovative achievements. By painting the same subject at various times of day and under different weather conditions, he could document the continual transformation of his surroundings. His painting of Glaçons, effet blanc and the related canvases coincided with his series of depictions of Rouen Cathedral, and both undertakings reveal similarities in palette and approach. Monet would apply the lessons he learned from these pictures to later series of misty mornings on the Seine and ultimately to his depictions of the waterlilies in his garden at Giverny. Perhaps more than any of the series from this decade, the ice floe pictures laid the groundwork for his approach to his renderings of the floating lilypads and the reflection of the trees and sky in the garden pond.
Monet continued to work on this series long after the ice melted on the Seine and into the following year. As was the case for most of his plein-air compositions, he worked on these paintings intermittently throughout the day and would complete many of them in his studio. His practice was often to sign paintings only upon turning them over to his dealer, and the present work is dated accordingly on the occasion of its consignment in February 1894 to the dealers Boussod, Valadon & Cie. The picture was sold shortly thereafter to Edmond Decap, one of the first major collectors of Impressionist art.
Monet's series of ice floes has since gained a significant following in the literary world, having been described beautifully in Marcel Proust's first novel, Jean Santeuil, and most recently requoted in Edmund de Waal's family history, The Hare with Amber Eyes. Proust's gorgeous literary description captures the essense of what we see here: "A day of thaw ... the sun, the blue of the sky, the broken ice, the mud, and the moving water turning the river into a dazzling mirror" (M. Proust, reprinted in Edmund de Waal, The Hair with Amber Eyes, A Hidden Inheritance, New York, 2010).