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Title The Church at Vétheuil
Original Translation L’église de Vétheuil
Collection Southampton City Art Gallery
Artist Monet, Claude (French painter, 1840-1926)
Date 1880 (dated)
Signed yes

L'église de Vétheuil in the Southampton collection has long been considered one of the masterpieces of Impressionism. It was painted during the period when Monet lived in the town of Vétheuil on the river Seine (1878-81). During this and the preceding years, Monet suffered considerable poverty. However, during the crucial years spent at Vétheuil he made the great stylistic advances which would lead to his series paintings, and he began to achieve the moderate financial success, which would finally allow him to settle at Giverny in 1883.

In L'église de Vétheuil Monet broke into new territory announcing pointillism to the future. Probably painted in one sitting from a boat located near the centre of the river, Monet, who was always dedicated to rendering the transitory effects of light through the direct observation of nature, here achieves an extraordinary sense of atmospheric movement with his bright palette and innovative technique of broken, rhythmic brushwork, creating a vivid scene in which every element appears to have been caught in flux. Moreover, Monet achieved this sense of mobility within the confines of a rigorously structured, yet informal composition divided into three bands: the sky obtains great depth and translucency by being painted with a thin uneven layer of pale blue pigment; the brightly lit buildings of the town, dominated by the church, are painted in thick dry paint, literally enhancing their solid presence; while the broad expanse of water that fills the lower half of the canvas, catches all the early afternoon light of the scene, reflecting back on its fragmented surface the image of the peopled river banks, the animated boaters and the town buildings.

Current Accession Number SCAG 183/1975
Inscription front lr 'Claude Monet'; front ll '1880'
Subject townscape; place (Vétheuil, France)
Measurements 50.5 x 61 cm.0 cm (estimate)
Material oil on canvas
Acquisition Details Purchased from Agnew's, London, 1975, for £56,284 (Chipperfield Fund), with a 50% Government Grant, a donation of £3,000 from the National Art-Collections Fund and further public and private donations.
Provenance Bernheim-Jeune before 1885; Bousson Valadon et-Cie (one of Monet's dealers from the mid-1880s), 1885; probably with Victor Défossés, 1885; Défossés' sale, Hôtel Défossés, Paris, 26 April 1899, lot 44; bought back by Bousson Valadon et-Cie; Ad. Taverniers sale, Paris, 6 March 1900, lot 56; bought by Hessel; Oscar Schmitz (1861-1933) collection, Dresden, by c.1910, (he left Germany for Zurich in 1931); exhibited Wildenstein, Paris 1936 as part of the Schmidt collection; purchased from Wildenstein by Commander C. J. Balfour of Durley, Hampshire.
Principal Exhibitions Sammlung Oscar Scmitz, Kunsthaus, Zurich, 1932, cat. no. 37; La collection Oscar Shmitz, Wildenstein, Paris, 1936, cat. no. 44, ill. (catalogue by A. Rubinstein); European Pictures from an English County, Agnew's, London, 1957, cat. no. 45, pl. 19g (catalogue by D. Cooper); Monet: The Early Years, Lefevre, London, 1969, cat. no. 19, ill. (catalogue by D. Sutton, as dated 1880 by the artist ‘after 1900'); French Paintings from Southampton Art Gallery, Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 1985; Monet to Freud, Sotheby's, London, 1988, cat. no. 30, ill.; Development of 19th Century French Art from the Collection of the Manchester City Art Gallery and other Museums of the U.K., Ashikaga Museum of Art, Tokyo, Station Gallery, Sapporo, Museum of Contemporary Art, Umeda, Daimaru Museum, Fukushima, 1994, cat. no. 31, ill.; Art Treasures of England, Royal Academy, London, 1998, cat. no. 353, ill. (catalogue by M. Clarke as dated 1879).
Publications Fechter, P., ‘Die Sammlung Schmitz', Kunst und Künstler, 1910, p. 21; Scheffer, K., ‘Die Sammlung O. Schmitz in Dresden', Kunst und Künstler, 1920-21, p. 186; Geffroy, G., Claude Monet, sa vie, son tems, son oeuvre, Paris, 1922, p. 217; Doromoy, M., ‘La collectoon Schmitz à Dresde', L'Amour et l'Art, 1926, p. 342 (where wrongly titled L'église de Vernon); Malingue, M., Claude Monet, Monaco, 1943, p. 94, ill.; Reuterswärd, O., Monet, Stockholm, 1948, p. 283, ill. p. 196; Wilderstein, D., Claude Monet, Biographie et Catalogue Raisonnée, 4 vols, Lausanne, 1974, vol. 1 (1840-1881), no. 531, ill. (as dated later); House, J., Monet, Oxford, 1977, no. 23, (as c. 1879); Southampton Art Gallery, Illustrated Inventory of Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, Southampton, 1980, p. 60, ill. on cover; Kendall, R., Monet by Himself, London, 1989; Denvir, B., Impressionism: The Painters and the Paintings, London, 1991; Wright, C., Renaissance to Impressionism: Masterpieces from Southampton City Art Gallery, London, 1998, pp. 104-5, no. 60, ill. pp. 76-78.
Rights Owner Southampton City Art Gallery
Author Francesco Nevola



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