Claude Monet - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Thursday, March 3, 2022 | Phillips

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  • 'What I bring back from here will be sweetness itself, white, pink and blue, all enveloped in this magical air.'
    —Claude Monet


    Painted in the Spring of 1888 and saturated in the warm, softly diffused light of the Mediterranean, Le Golfe Juan belongs to one of Impressionist master Claude Monet’s most successful and highly celebrated group of paintings. Executed over a three and half month stay in Antibes at the beginning of that year, the series is focussed on varying views out across from the Cap d’Antibes and its environs, capturing the shifting qualities of light and weather conditions that he found there. Compared to the darker palette and heightened drama captured in his Normandy canvases, the bright light and intense hues of the Riviera were a revelation for Monet, offering an entirely new perspective on one of his most favoured motifs. After a first, exploratory visit taken with Pierre-Auguste Renoir in 1883, Monet immediately set about planning a more extended trip alone the following year. Immersing himself in the environment that was so unlike anything he had seen before, he wrote with confidence to his companion, Alice Hoschedé ‘Now I really feel the landscape, I can be bold and include every tone of pink and blue: it’s enchanting, it’s delicious.’i


    On the suggestion of his dealer Paul Durand-Ruel, who had a shrewd sense of the commercial appeal of Monet’s coastal scenes, the artist returned on his second and final pilgrimage to the Riviera in January of 1888, staying at the artist’s boarding house, Le Château de la Pinède. Painted during this formative sojourn, Le Golfe Juan powerfully distils Monet’s mastery of light and shifting atmospheric effects, the swirling rush of short, choppy brushstrokes in raw pastel tones carefully echoing the elemental energy of the scene before him. Animated throughout with a sense of movement and breath-taking vitality, the painting captures the sensation of shimmering light breaking through the scudding clouds, its reflection broken into luminous fragments across the surface of the water. Although maintaining a sense of its topographic specificity, the seascape is also a vehicle for the artist to explore key Impressionistic themes of the transience of light and our perception of colour, with passages of thicker impasto shot through with brilliant ribbons of turquoise, deep reds, and cadmium yellows, drawing the painting towards the more abstract language of Monet’s later work.



    Impressionism and the Sea

    'It is extraordinary to see the sea; what a spectacle! She is so unfettered that one wonders whether it is possible that she again becomes calm.' —Claude Monet


    Drawn to the sea since his school days in Le Havre, Monet would return again and again to the motif throughout his career. Encouraged by his mentor Eugéne Boudin, who took the young Monet out on expeditions to paint the harbours and shoreline around Normandy, Monet drew on a long tradition of seascape painting that stretched from 17th century Dutch masterpieces to the stunning atmospheric effects of J. M. W. Turner’s canvases as he honed his technique. Painting en plein air beside Boudin, Monet laid the foundations for the rapid brushstrokes and evocative use of raw, unmixed tones that would come to define his most iconic work. Underscoring the central importance of the seascape to the Impressionist movement itself, it was of course Monet’s hastily titled vision of sunrise over the port of Le Havre, Impression, soleil levant, that inspired the derisive label after the now infamous ‘first Impressionist exhibition’ in 1874.


    Joseph Mallord William Taylor, Norham Castle, Sunrise, c. 1845, Tate Britain, London. Image: akg-images / Erich Lessing CAPTION: Claude Monet, Impression: Soleil Levant (Impression: Sunrise), 1872, Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris. Image: Bridgeman Images

    Left: Joseph Mallord William Taylor, Norham Castle, Sunrise, c. 1845, Tate Britain, London. Image: akg-images / Erich Lessing
    Right: Claude Monet, Impression: Soleil Levant (Impression: Sunrise), 1872, Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris. Image: Bridgeman Images


    From Normandy down to the Riviera, the French coast offered numerous possibilities for Impressionist artists to pursue their painterly investigation of the shifting patterns of light and atmospheric effects thrown into such high relief by the restless motion of the sea. With the rapidly changing socio-economic conditions of small fishing villages and the emergence of the booming seaside resort, these locales also allowed for an intimate study of modern life that fascinated Monet and his contemporaries Édouard Manet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir.


    By the 1880s Monet had travelled extensively, and had largely moved away from depictions of people at leisure in these coastal spots, focussing his attention instead on the landscape and the dynamic interactions between sky, sea, and rocky earth that so fascinated him. Completely devoid of human presence and intensely focussed on the elemental forces at play, Le Golfe Juan is a powerful statement of Monet’s prowess as a painter of nature, and of the increasingly poetic and even philosophical dimensions that his work took on during this period. In its intense focus on pure colour and the subtle variations in light and its reflection cast across the surface of the water, Le Golfe Juan anticipates the sublime Nymphéas series that would totally absorb the artist in the last decades of his life.


    Towards Seriality


    Moving to his beloved Giverny in 1883, Monet intensified his examination of the rural French landscape, returning to the same sites again and again as he focussed on a narrowing range of motifs that included the surrounding corn and flower fields, rows of tall poplars, and of course his iconic haystacks. Representing the first, formalised series undertaken by Monet in the autumn of 1888, the conceptual grounding of the Haystack pictures can be linked in significant ways to the variations in light, colour, and atmospheric effects explored across the Antibes pictures. Moving away from the Naturalism of his earlier works, in Antibes Monet opened himself up to a more poetic exploration of his key themes, producing nearly 40 works focussed on variations of 4 or 5 distinct motifs. Focussing on well-known vistas and tourist sites instantly recognisable to viewers familiar with the region, Monet combined topographic specificity with his distinctive handling of paint to capture subtle variations in weather conditions and compositional arrangement.

  • Examples of the Antibes works held in major institutions

  • Displaying a particularly favourable panorama, Le Golfe Juan was, as Daniel Wildenstein details ‘Painted on the western slope of Cap d’Antibes looking north-west […] overlooked by the heights of Vallauris behind which lie higher hills culminating in the peak of Haut Montet.’ii


    With its flattened sense of perspective and elevated view out across the water to the snow-capped Alps beyond, the compositional arrangement of Le Golfe Juan also makes clear visual reference to Katsushika Hokusai’s enduring Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji. An avid collector of ukiyo-e woodblock prints, Monet, like his fellow Impressionists enthusiastically adopted the lessons of Japanese aesthetics into their paintings, experimenting with cropping and shifts in perspective to emphasise the flatness of the picture plane. The methodical and closely controlled pictorial arrangement of the Antibes pictures emphasises the importance of this influence in Monet’s thinking during the 1880s, especially apparent in the flat, rhythmic patterning of overlapping sections of land, sea, sky, and distant mountafins of the present work.


     Katsushika Hokusai, Ukiyo-e print of the Tama River abd Mt. Fuji, 1823 – 29, The Metropolitan Museum, New York. Image: © Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Howard Mansfield Collection, Purchase, Rogers Fund, 1936

    Katsushika Hokusai, Ukiyo-e print of the Tama River and Mt. Fuji, 1823 – 29, The Metropolitan Museum, New York. Image: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Howard Mansfield Collection, Purchase, Rogers Fund, 1936



    Collector’s Digest


    •    One of the leading artists of the Impressionist movement, Monet’s work is widely understood as foundational to the development of 20th Century art, and his seascapes occupied a special place in his practice, and in Impressionism more broadly.


    •    The peak of Monet’s enthusiastic and extensive travelling, the 1880s was a particularly rich period for the artist, his visits to the Normandy coast and the Riviera represented across a wide variety of seascapes that represent some of his most iconic works.


    •    Vividly evoked in an exquisite palette and Monet’s characteristically rapid yet precise brushstrokes, Le Golfe Juan is one of only 39 paintings produced during this 1888 visit to Antibes, anticipating his more formalised approach to seriality undertaken later that year.


    •    Upon his return to Paris, 10 of the Antibes paintings were purchased by the art dealer Theo van Gogh and promptly exhibited at the Goupil Gallery, an early indication of the important place these works would occupy in Monet’s oeuvre in the years to come.


    i Claude Monet to Alice Hoschedé, 3 February 1884, cited in Daniel Zamani, ‘Experiencing the Sublime: Northern Coasts’, Claude Monet: The Truth of Nature (exh. cat.), Denver Art Museum, London, 2019, p. 220.

    ii Daniel Wildenstein, Claude Monet, Catalogue raisonné, vol. III, Cologne, 1996, p. 450.

    • Provenance

      Michel Monet, Giverny (the artist's son)
      Private Collection, France
      Galerie Beyeler, Basel (acquired from the above on 18 December 1967; inv. no. 5127)
      Stephen Hahn, New York (acquired from the above on 18 April 1968)
      Sotheby Parke-Bernet, New York, 21 May 1981, lot 522
      Private Collection (acquired at the above sale)
      Noortman & Brod, New York (acquired circa 1983)
      Sotheby’s, London, 31 March 1987, lot 18
      Private Collection (acquired at the above sale)
      Aska International, Tokyo (acquired in 1989)
      Private Collection, Japan
      Sotheby’s, New York, 6 May 2015, lot 328
      Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Basel, Galerie Beyeler, Impressionnistes, October - November 1967, no. 17 (titled and erroneously dated as Antibes, 1890)

    • Literature

      Daniel Wildenstein, Claude Monet. Vie et oeuvre - tome III. 1887-1898. Peintures, Lausanne, 1979, no. 1180, pp. 5, 50, 74, 106, 270, 305, 307-309, 312 (illustrated, p. 107)
      Daniel Wildenstein, Monet. Vie et oeuvre - tome V. Supplément aux Peintures, Dessins, Pastels, Index, Lausanne, 1991, no. 1180, pp. 46, 269, 283, 287, 293, 327, 328, 332, 335, 346
      Daniel Wildenstein, Monet. Catalogue Raisonné, vol. III, nos. 969-1595, Cologne, 1996, no. 1180, pp. 449-450 (illustrated, p. 447)


Le Golfe Juan

stamped with the artist’s signature ‘Claude Monet’ lower left
oil on canvas
65.1 x 92.4 cm (25 5/8 x 36 3/8 in.)
Painted in 1888.

Full Cataloguing

£900,000 - 1,200,000 

Sold for £1,111,500

Contact Specialist

Rosanna Widén
Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+ 44 20 7318 4060

Olivia Thornton
Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Europe
+ 44 20 7318 4099

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 3 March 2022