Lot 33
  • 33

Claude Monet

2,000,000 - 3,000,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Claude Monet
  • Sur la falaise, au Petit Ailly
  • Stamped with the signature Claude Monet (lower right); stamped again with the signature Claude Monet (on the reverse)
  • Oil on canvas
  • 28 3/4 by 36 1/4 in.
  • 73 by 92 cm


Estate of the artist

Michel Monet, Giverny (by descent from the above)

Private Collection, France (acquired by 1982)

Sale: Galerie Koller, Zurich, November 12-13, 1982, lot 5115A 

Private Collection, Switzerland (acquired at the above sale and sold: Christie's, New York, May 4, 2011, lot 49)

Acquired at the above sale


Boston, Museum of Fine Arts & London, Royal Academy of Arts, Monet in the '90s, The Series Paintings, 1990, no. 63, illustrated in color in the catalogue

Winterthur, Kunstmuseum Winterthur, Die natur der Kunst: Begegnungen mit der Natur vom 19. Jahrhundert bis in die Gegenwart, 2010-11, no. 32, illustrated in color in the catalogue

Basel, Fondation Beyeler, Monet, 2017, n.n., illustrated in color in the catalogue


Daniel Wildenstein, Claude Monet, Biographie et catalogue raisonné, Lausanne & Paris, 1979, vol. III, no. 1428, illustrated p. 195

Daniel Wildenstein, Monet, catalogue raisonné, Cologne, 1996, vol. III, no. 1428, illustrated p. 592

Catalogue Note

Sur la falaise, au Petit Ailly belongs to the seminal series of expansive views from the towering cliffs along the coast of Normandy. Steeped in boundless originality of representation, this seaside motif is credited as one of Monet’s earliest experiments with the serial practice, the bursts of concentrated work on a specific and related subject that would come to dominate his artistic production in the 1890s and beyond. Monet steadfastly painted the northern French coast, a region to which, as a native of Le Havre, he was deeply attached and spent a great deal of time in the early 1880s. Returning once more to the seaside towns of Pourville, Dieppe, and Varengeville in the early months of 1896 represented the first time in a decade that the artist returned to the vistas of his youth as his subject matter. Upon his arrival to Pourville, a port roughly two miles from Dieppe, the artist wrote to his dealer Paul Durand-Ruel in Paris, his delight evident: “I set myself up here several days ago. I needed to see the sea again and am enchanted to see once more so many things that I did here fifteen years ago. And so I have set to work with ardor”(quoted in Monet in Normandy (exhibition catalogue), Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, San Francisco, 2006, p. 156). The return to these coastal scenes indicates Monet’s re-engagement with the very motifs that were instrumental to his evolution as an artist. This re-examination of the familiar panoramas resulted in a series of nearly fifty paintings depicting several towns along the coast executed in 1896 and 1897, the same years he executed his famed Matinée sur la Seine series near his home in Giverny. The resulting works represent a narrower range of vistas than the artist’s previous trips, a noticeable assessment of and reflection on his preceding compositions. Whereas in 1881 and 1882 the artist roamed all along the chalky cliffs looking for ideal locations to set his easel, in 1896, Monet limited himself to the select vistas he had explored during his earlier sojourn, prompting the most enthralling compositions. Through repetition, consistency and a strong understanding of the motif, Monet was afforded the opportunity to elaborate on these established scenes with greater freedom to undertake innovative risks, pushing the boundaries of his composition quite literally off the page. Compared to the earlier motifs of the rocky coastline, Monet created striking visual abstraction in these later views by bringing the viewer in as close as possible to the rocky landscape. The composition of Sur la falaise, au Petit Ailly is dominated by the rearing form of the massive cliff, which fills the left and center of the picture, compressing the sky to a narrow strip and all but effacing the view, merely hinting at vast expanse of the sea that lies before it. Executed with surety, the vistas in the distance are veiled in hazy light; the steadying horizontals of the sea and sky provide a balanced contrast to the variegated tones and textures of the bluffs. As in other works from 1896-97, the brushwork is less defined and more nuanced. The indistinct contours, and melded tones and forms of the bluff suggest the influence of Degas’s late landscape pastels and monotypes, which Monet would have seen when they were exhibition at Durand-Ruel in the fall of 1892. Heightened with pastel, Degas’s monotypes achieved a liberation of color and form that transcended any literal representation of the landscape. Soft-focused, grandly spacious vistas such as Rochers au bord d'une rivière are close in spirit to Monet’s later views of the Norman coast and undoubtedly inspired this return to the craggy shore. Degas's clear influence demonstrates the ways in which Monet habitually adopted and then quickly transcended the influence of recent artistic traditions, pushing well beyond them and adapting the best qualities to create works that are startlingly fresh, thrusting the boundaries of his medium to new heights. Monet’s success with the coastal series would in turn influence a whole group of French painters to travel to the sea to capture the imposing rock formations of the Norman coastline.