Mr. & Mrs. Paul Mellon, Upperville, Virginia (acquired in 1953)
Thence by descent
Daniel Wildenstein, Claude Monet, Biographie et catalogue raisonné, Lausanne & Paris, 1979, vol. III, no. 1138, illustrated p. 93
Daniel Wildenstein, Monet, Catalogue Raisonné, Cologne, 1996, vol. III, no. 1138, illustrated p. 431
Monet’s Champ d’iris à Giverny exemplifies the high-Impressionism of Monet’s 1880s landscapes. Its rich surface, composed using spontaneous brushwork and areas of thickly applied paint, exemplifies the technical virtuosity Monet had achieved by the end of the decade. The idyllic pastoral subject matter of this work encapsulates the central focus of Monet’s oeuvre toward the end of the nineteenth-century when he divorced himself from painting urban scenes of Paris and devoted himself fully to his beloved countryside in Giverny, with its majestic avenues of poplar trees, wheat fields and flowers.
Painted in 1887, the present work was executed during a period of respite from extensive travelling. The previous year Monet undertook painting campaigns to Holland and Brittany, but had also finally established a permanent studio at Giverny, which he had rented since 1883. The surrounding fields and meadows of the district became the focus of much of his output whilst at home and, unusually, contain a number of figures identifiable as members of his extended family. The idyllic rural compositions Monet executed in the Eure offer a vision of pastoral contentment; the fecundity of France and its vibrant seasons are benevolently portrayed in the Impressionist style. However, they also present a contrast to the more spectacular and unusual sights that Monet strove to paint further abroad. Paul Hayes Tucker has speculated that by travelling throughout France in the 1880s Monet was attempting to decentralize Impressionism which for the most part had been based in Paris. "When queried in 1880 about his defection [from the Impressionists], he asserted, 'I am still an Impressionist and will always remain one.' Unlike his some of his former colleagues such as Pissarro who experimented with the pointillist techniques of the Post-Impressionists, Monet staunchly maintained that belief. Indeed, he put it into practice in an unprecedented way, traveling extensively during the decade to paint some of the most spectacular and varied sites in all of France, from the black, ocean-pounded coast of Belle Isle in the Atlantic south of Brittany to the verdant shores of Antibes on the Mediterranean. The places he chose had dramatically different geological formations, weather conditions, lighting effects, and temperature ranges. They also possessed strikingly different moods, mythologies, associations, and appeals” (P. H. Tucker, Monet in the '90s. The Series Paintings, New Haven & London, 1989, pp. 18-19).