Lot 25
  • 25

Claude Monet

3,000,000 - 5,000,000 USD
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  • Claude Monet
  • Marée basse aux Petites-Dalles
  • Signed Claude Monet and dated 84 (lower right)
  • Oil on canvas
  • 23 5/8 by 28 3/4 in.
  • 60 by 73 cm


Galerie Durand-Ruel, Paris (acquired from the artist on November 17, 1884)

Charles T. Yerkes, Philadelphia (acquired from the above on October 10, 1891)

Emilie Grigsby, New York (sold: The Anderson Galleries, New York, January 26, 1912, lot 1154)

Durand-Ruel Gallery, New York (acquired at the above sale and held until 1949)

Maurice Ferrier, Geneva

Acquavella Galleries, New York

Acquired from the above in 1968


New York, Union League Club, Painting of Various School, 1913, no. 19 (titled Highlands on the French Coast)

New York, Durand-Ruel Gallery, Exhibition of Paintings by Claude Monet, 1923, no. 9 (titled Falaise à Pourville)


Daniel Wildenstein, Claude Monet: Biographie et catalogue raisonné, vol. II, Lausanne & Paris, 1979, no. 905, illustrated p. 133

Daniel Wildenstein, Monet, Catalogue raisonné, vol. II, Cologne, 1996, no. 905, illustrated p. 338

Catalogue Note

Marée basse aux Petites-Dalles is one of Monet’s spectacular seascapes of the Normandy coast.  Executed in 1884 when the artist was renowned as one of the pillars of the original Impressionist group, Monet painted the cliffs at Petites-Dalles from the beach below, where he set up his easel during a “plein-air” painting expedition. The scene here, with the towering cliff face rendered in luminescent tones, is remarkable for its atmospheric drama, while the brilliant blue sky casts the form of the Porte d’Amont into sharp relief. The scholar Robert L. Herbert discussed the visual impact of Monet's depiction of these gargantuan formations: “In these pictures we are brought extremely close to the cliffs in unusual compositions intended to make us feel small and powerless in front of awesome nature…Monet's rocks have an overpowering presence by virtue of their writhing mass, and by a stronger contrast of color: his dark blues and purples stand out against the yellowish sunset. If we stare at his picture for a few moments, its rhythms force our eye upward, and then we sense the fragility of these delicately curved masses that seem almost to tremble against the evening sky, threatening us with their potential of collapse” (R. L. Herbert, Monet on the Normandy Coast: Tourism and Painting, 1867-1886, New Haven & London, 1994, pp. 108-110 & 127). 

During the period in which the present work was created, Monet was enraptured by the cliffs at Étretat, and depicted them from numerous angles and in varying weather conditions. Discussing the importance of the Norman coast within Monet’s oeuvre, Paul Hayes Tucker noted: “Without doubt his favourite site during the 1880s was the Normandy coast; it obviously was in his blood from his childhood in Le Havre and Sainte-Adresse and was easily accessible from Vétheuil and later from Giverny where he moved in 1883. Of all the places he visited on the coast, several became his most frequented - Pourville, Varengeville, Etretat, and Dieppe. Their appeal lay primarily in their dramatic cliffs and stretches of beach, their simplicity, starkness, and past history” (P. H. Tucker, Claude Monet: Life and Art, New Haven & London, 1995, p. 107).

Monet’s first campaign in Étretat was during the winter of 1868-69, when he completed several canvases featuring local fishing boats at sea.  In 1883, he returned to the Norman coast initially to Le Havre and then to Étretat where he stayed for three weeks. The views of the spectacular cliff formations of chalk arches and flying buttresses between Dieppe and Le Havre inspired at least eighteen canvases. 

Monet’s affinity for the stunning natural features of the Norman coast was not unique; the area was also popular with artists and writers of the preceding generation, including Delacroix, Corot, Boudin and Courbet, the latter of whom exerted a strong influence on Monet’s work.  As Richard R. Brettell states: “In these works of Normandy there is a clear debt to Courbet and their concomitant fascination with the almost mythic natural landscape of the north coast. [...] The viewer, like Monet himself, is most often alone - walking on the beaches, clinging to the cliffs, staring at the waves that crash against the coast of France itself” (R. R. Brettell, Monet in Normandy (exhibition catalogue), Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 2006, p. 46). 

The first private owner of the present work was Charles T. Yerkes, an American financier who developed mass transit systems in Chicago and London.  Yerkes acquired the painting from Monet’s dealer Paul-Durand-Ruel, who purchased the work from Monet in November 1884. The present work is from a series of three paintings Monet executed in 1884 of the cliffs at Petites-Dalles.  One of the other three works was formerly in the collection of Mr. David Lloyd Kreeger, a renowned American philanthropist who was president and chairman of the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington for nearly 20 years. While the Kreeger picture now hangs in the permanent collection of The Kreeger Museum in Washington D.C., the present work is one of the two remaining in private hands.