The most exquisite Monet I've ever seen, at Christies, King Street, London

Update: Alas I didn't win the Euromillions, and my little Monet sold for £2,393,250 / $3,781,335

On Tuesday 7th February 2012 Christies will hold its Impressionist / Modern painting sale. Included are a Pissaro, three Degas', a variety of Henry Moore's paintings and sculptures, several Picasso's and one particularly exquisite Monet, Le bras de Jeufosse, automne.

The painting is rarely seen by the public, and has been in private hands since the 1950's. Whilst the sale has some very beautiful pieces, I was immediately drawn to the Monet.  It positively glows on the wall and has a presence quite unlike some of the other works.  I realise that very few people go to view paintings at auction houses, but when one considers that many of the works will pass from private owner to private owner, these viewings are often our only opportunity to see these works at all.  The sale showcases some of the finest examples of Impressionist and Modern art.  Do try to see them if you're in Mayfair, and let me know what you think of my Monet.  Christies, if I win the EuroMillions between now and Tuesday I'll be on the phone...

From the Christies catalogue:
Le bras de Jeufosse, automne is one of a series of ten sweeping riverscapes executed by Claude Monet in the autumn of 1884 in which he depicts a stretch of the river Seine near the small village of Jeufosse. This was located about two kilometres upstream from Giverny, to which the artist had moved in the spring of the previous year. Situated about sixty-five kilometres to the northwest of Paris, the landscape surrounding Giverny comprised rolling wooded hills, copses, meadows and marshes. It was intersected by the Seine - here dotted with numerous small islands - and its tributaries, the Epte and the Ru. 'Once settled', Monet wrote to his dealer Paul Durand-Ruel, 'I hope to produce masterpieces, because I like the countryside very much' (Monet, quoted in D. Wildenstein, 'Monet's Giverny', in Monet's years at Giverny: Beyond Impressionism, exh. cat., New York, 1978, pp. 15-16).

It was not until the end of August 1883 that Monet began to paint this countryside, remarking that 'one always needs a certain amount of time to get familiar with a new landscape' (Monet, quoted inibid., p. 19). As at Vétheuil, where he had lived between 1878 and 1881, it was the landscapes of the Seine that Monet primarily explored during his first years at Giverny, painting views of the river at Port-Villez, Le Grand Val and Vernon in 1883, followed by Jeufosse in 1884. The Seine was an enduring and important source of inspiration for Monet, who translated into paint the evanescent effects of light and shimmering reflections as they played across the river's surface, as well as the recreation and industry which the river sustained. 'I have painted the Seine all my life, at all hours of the day, and in every season', Monet declared. 'I have never been bored with it: to me it is always different' (Monet, quoted in ibid., p. 18). Thus in the Jeufosse series of paintings, we are presented with shifting views looking both upriver and downriver, captured at various times of day and subject to the subtly changing effects of weather and light. Indeed, Wildenstein has suggested that this group of paintings is an important indicator that the concept of serialisation, which Monet later took up systematically in his celebrated series of grain stacks of the 1890s, already existed in the painter's mind (ibid.).

Prior to painting the present canvas, Monet had spent three months working in the Ligurian town of Bordighera in Italy, followed by a brief but productive sojourn in Menton in the South of France. These excursions offered Monet new and challenging motifs to paint and opportunities for experimentation and, once back at Giverny, he was able to approach the local landscapes feeling re-invigorated and inspired anew: 'I felt the need, in order to widen my field of observation and to refresh my vision in front of new sights, to take myself away for a while from the area I was living. It was the opportunity for relaxation and renewal' (Monet, quoted in J. House, Monet: Nature into Art, New Haven & London, 1986, p. 21). Returning to Giverny in early September 1884 after a brief holiday on the coast of Normandy, Monet turned his attention to painting the curving stretch of the Seine near Jeufosse. He worked intensively to finish these paintings before the onset of inclement weather, complaining to Durand-Ruel of his difficulty in completing these works because 'nature transforms from one day to the next' (Monet, letter to P. Durand-Ruel, 19 October 1884, reproduced in D. Wildenstein, op. cit., Paris, 1979, no. 525, p. 255).

Unlike the motifs which Monet painted during his tours of France and Italy, those near Giverny were chosen more at the artist's leisure; they were subjects which, Monet revealed, 'required seeking'. For Le bras de Jeufosse, automne, Monet situated himself just in front of a cluster of trees on the river's left-bank, looking downstream towards Port-Villez. To the right is the abundant foliage of the Ile de la Merville and, to the left, the hill of Jeufosse which runs gently down towards the Coteau du Gibet. Robert Herbert has pointed out that for these 'picturesque' paintings at Jeufosse, Monet positioned himself along the calmer branch of the Seine which was separated from the main channel by the Ile de la Merville and the Ile de la Flotte: 'the view he constructed is therefore doubly bucolic because in reality the slopes of the river valley at Jeufosse were farmed, and the Seine bore heavy commercial traffic' (R. Herbert, Monet on the Normandy Coast: Tourism and Painting, 1867-1886, New Haven & London, 1994, p. 133). The Paris-Le Havre railway line also followed this bend of the river. Although the trainline is portrayed in Le train à Jeufosse, a painting within this series which Monet later gave to the poet Stéphane Mallarmé, in the present canvas Monet has eliminated all signs of modernity and mankind's intervention, focusing instead on a rich interplay between, on the one hand, land, river and sky, and, on the other, light, colour and texture. Only the small rowing-boat, perhaps the artist's own, points to a human presence.

Émile Zola also portrayed the countryside surrounding Jeufosse as an idyllic retreat, the 'faraway place' of his novel L'Oeuvre which was serialised in Gil Blas a year after Le bras de Jeufosse, automne was executed. Indeed, in one passage, the novel's protagonist, a talented painter called Claude Lantier who advocated painting en plein air, begins 'a study of the slopes of Jeufosse, with the Seine in the foreground', which, however, he fails to complete (É. Zola, The Masterpiece, trans. T. Walton, Oxford, 2008, p. 139). With resonances of Monet, Zola describes how Claude Lantier and his lover Christine were enraptured with the Seine near Jeufosse: 'they had developed a wild passion for the river itself ... Among the islands strung along the Seine like a mysterious floating city they explored the whole network of narrow waterways, floating gently through them, stroked as they passed by the low, overhanging branches, alone with the wood-pigeons and kingfishers' (ibid., p. 138).

In 1892, Theodore Robinson recalled that, 'one thing I remember Monet speaking of, the pleasure he took in the "pattern" often nature gives - leafage against sky, reflections etc.' (T. Robinson, quoted in J. House, op. cit., 1986, p. 46). This pleasure is communicated powerfully in the visually exciting bravura brushwork and strikingly vivid palette of Le bras de Jeufosse, automne. Here, Monet explores effects of variegated brushwork, texture and colour, reflecting that by the 1880s composition and execution had, for him, become increasingly inseparable (seeibid., 1986). Horizontal blue and purple strokes suggest rippling water, dense and varied layers of paint describe the splendid and riotous autumnal foliage of the Ile de Merville and its reflection, whilst small dots of blue and red dance across the surface of painting, creating visual rhymes which unify the composition. Le bras de Jeufosse, automne is an exceptionally bold and vigorous canvas within this important group of Jeufosse paintings, in which the new richness Monet had developed in his rendition of foliage during the first years of the 1880s is used to magnificent effect.

Sale Location
8 King Street, St. James's, London SW1Y 6QT

Auction Times
Feb 77:00 PMLots1 - 51

Viewing Times
King Street
Feb 29am - 4:30pm
Feb 39am - 4:30pm
Feb 412pm - 5pm
Feb 512pm - 5pm
Feb 69am - 4:30pm
Feb 79am - 3:30pm

Contact Info
Adrienne Dumas
+44 (0)20 7389 2376

Giovanna Bertazzoni
+44 (0)20 7389 2542

Jay Vince
+44 (0)20 7389 2536

Olivier Camu
+44 (0)20 7389 2450

Leah Sheehan
+44 (0)20 7389 2442