Falaises, temps gris, 1882
Paul Durand-Ruel, Paris and New York, acquired c. 1888.
Alden W. Kingman, New York, acquired c. 1891.
Paul Durand-Ruel, New York, acquired in 1896.
Cyrus J. Lawrence, New York, acquired in 1898;
His sale; The American Art Association, 21-22 Jan. 1910, lot 72.
Paul Durand-Ruel, acquired at the above sale.
Mrs. Albert L. Webster, New York, acquired from the above in 1910;
Her sale; The American Art Association, 28-29 Jan. 1926, lot 175.
Paul Durand-Ruel, acquired at the above sale;
His sale; Galerie Charpentier, Paris, 7-8 Dec. 1954, lot 37.
Philippe Tiranty, Nice, acquired at the above sale.
Private Collection, Switzerland, by 1971; and by descent to the present owner.
D. Wildenstein, Claude Monet: Biographie et Catalogue Raisonné, Lausanne/Paris, 1979, vol. II, p. 64, no. 720 (illus. p. 65).
D. Wildenstein, Claude Monet: Bibliographie et Catalogue Raisonné, Lausanne, 1991, vol. II, no. 720, p. 268 (illus. p. 264).
(Probably) New York, Union League Club, Monet, 12-15 Feb. 1891, no. 49 (loaned by A.W. Kingman, as The Cove).
New York, The Lotos Club, Monet, Jan. 1899, no. 12. (loaned by Cyrus J. Lawrence, as Falaises à Dieppe).
Lausanne, Fondation Pierre Gianadda, Monet, 17 June – 20 Nov. 2011, no. 25 (as dating c. 1882-86).
Falaises, temps gris is one of a series of paintings executed during Monet’s stay in 1882 in the small seaside resort of Pourville-sur-Mer (now part of the commune of Hautot-sur-Mer), near Dieppe in Normandy. As Monet wrote to his second wife Alice Hoschedé, the area was set in ‘a very beautiful region’ where he ‘couldn’t be closer to the sea […] I only regret not coming here sooner’ (P. Tucker, Claude Monet: Life and Art, New Haven, 1995, p. 109). Coastal scenes of Normandy, including the town of Pourville, were among Monet’s favourite subjects in the 1880s. Its wide expanses appealed to the artist’s fascination with space, as well as with the pure elements of earth, water and sky. For Monet this area ‘was in his blood from his childhood in Le Havre and Sainte-Adresse and was easily accessible from Vétheuil and later from Giverny where he moved in 1883 […] its appeal lay primarily in their dramatic cliffs and stretches of beach, their simplicity, starkness, and past history’ (P.H. Tucker, op. cit., p. 107).
Painted en plein-air from the vantage point of the beach at Pourville, Falaises is remarkable for its atmospheric drama with the Porte d’Amont in the distance immersed in a hazy blue-grey sky. Monet depicts the sea at high tide and the waves are rendered with bold sweeping brushstrokes. In the foreground the beach leads up to the cliffs of Varengeville which are painted with Monet’s subtle facture in variegated tones of blue, purple, red, and orange. As Robert L. Herbert has written: ‘In these pictures we are brought extremely close to the cliffs in unusual compositions intended to make us feel small and powerless in front of awesome nature…Monet’s rocks have an overpowering presence by virtue of their writhing mass, and by a stronger contrast of colour’ (R.L. Herbert, Monet on the Normandy Coast: Tourism and Painting, 1867 – 1886, New Haven & London, 1994, pp. 108-10 & 127).
The picture was first purchased by Monet’s Parisian dealer Paul Durand-Ruel, who was instrumental in establishing the artist’s reputation throughout Europe and abroad; Falaises travelled around 1888 to Durand-Ruel’s New York gallery, opened in 1887, where it was first acquired by Alden Weyman Kingman, one of the first major American collectors of Impressionist art. Kingman most probably acquired the artwork during the first exhibition of Monet’s paintings in the United States at the Union Club in New York, organised by devoted Monet collector William H. Fuller. The picture was later acquired in 1898 by New York industrialist Cyrus J. Lawrence, a prominent collector of Monet, and was exhibited in America’s second large-scale exhibition of Impressionism at the Lotos Club in 1899.
Writing the preface for the Lotos Club exhibition catalogue, William H. Fuller states: ‘Every picture that Monet paints is distinguished, among other qualities, for its pictorial unity. He sees nature synthetically; he paints it pictorially […] This method of treatment involves an intelligent comprehension of his subject, an easy command of his brush, an orderly and artistic arrangement of the various parts of his picture, and calls into play one of the highest and most pleasurable functions of the human mind. In his early life, as he once remarked to me, he often completed a canvas at a single sitting; “but now”, he modestly added, “I am more exacting, and it takes a long time for me to finish a picture.’’. Falaises bears witness to Monet’s masterful depiction of atmospheric effect and his sensitive handling of colour on the eve of his move to Giverny the following year in 1883.