Brief Report

Monet’s ‘Above Vétheuil, Spring Effect’ [Wildenstein no. 587] was painted on a commercially primed and stretched canvas, albeit not one that can be assigned to any of the French standard sizes. Monet chose a very fine, closely woven canvas with a pale pink ground, the colour apparently corresponding to what was then available from suppliers under the name of rosé or rosé gris [Callen 2000, p. 66] (figs. 10, 13). He used the pale pink of the ground as the basis for the general colour effect of his picture and through his open painting technique allowed it to remain visible in many places in the manner of an underpainting (figs. 7–9). Without any discernible compositional planning or underdrawing, the artist filled the whole surface of the picture with brisk brushstrokes – horizontal, vertical, diagonal or zigzag, or dabbed, as in the area of the foliage, depending on the desired effect. Applied wet-in-wet, but also wet-on-dry, those paint applications touching the elevations in the structure are all there is to indicate that Monet painted this picture in more than one working session (figs. 7, 8). Characteristic of the painting, in addition, are the colour mixes created incompletely on the palette, which only visibly blend in the applied brushstroke (figs. 7–9). The handwritten signature ‘Claude Monet’ was added to the dry paint layer in the bottom right-hand corner in reddish-brown paint (fig. 9). The technological examination of the painting also revealed beyond doubt that later additions have been made in the area of the sky. These paint applications, executed by a different hand, imitate the flow of Monet’s horizontal brush-strokes and can be seen clearly under UV (figs. 4, 15, 16). These additions are hardly noticeable in visible light, and their extent and manner suggest that they are not retouching measures intended to compensate for losses in the paint layer, but rather, presumably, constitute a deliberate addition to areas where the ground was visible, reflecting as it were Monet’s loose and sketchy manner of painting. Another later addition is the present varnish (fig. 10). The painting gives no indication that there was ever an original varnish. Stuck on to the reverse of the centre bar of the stretcher is a label of the art-dealer Durand-Ruel, at whose auction on 24 May 1899 the painting, hitherto in the Camescasse Collection, was sold to the Paris art dealer Bernheim-Jeune (fig. 12).

Claude Monet
Above Vétheuil, Spring Effect, 1880, oil on canvas, 60.4 x 99.8 cm, WRM 3620

Claude Monet

born on 14 November 1840 in Paris,
died on 5 December 1926 in Giverny

Brief report with complete data as downloadable pdf-file

Further illustrations:

Fig. 02

Verso with dealer's label

Fig. 03

Raking light

Fig. 04

UV fluorescence

Fig. 05

Infrared reflectogram

Fig. 06

False-colour Infrared reflectogram

Fig. 07

Detail of centre of picture: open, sketchy painting technique

Fig. 08

Detail of foreground: open, sketchy painting technique

Fig. 09

Detail of signature

Fig. 10

Detail of right-hand turnover edge with traces of the varnish application

Fig. 11

Detail verso, right-hand top corner, unprimed edge of canvas on the right-hand turnover edge is due to the stretching of the large-format legth of canvas during the industrial-scale priming process

Fig. 12

Detail verso, label of the art dealer Durand-Ruel stuck on to the centre bar of the stretcher, terminus post quem: 1890

Fig. 13

Microsocope photograph, right-hand edge of picture with pink ground, in places with very small holes (M=1 mm)

Fig. 14

Microscope photograph, top right-hand corner, one of the six apparently purposeless holes in paint layer, ground, canvas and stretcher (M = 1 mm)

Fig. 15

Microscope photograph, sky, later painted additions in the same colour as the surrounding original paint layer, presumably intended to 'intensify' the areas where the ground was showing through (M=1 mm)

Fig. 16

Microscope photograph of the detail in fig. 15 under UV stimulation; the additions, which colourwise are barely distinguishable in visible light fluoresce greenish unter UV (M=1 mm)