Overview

Toward the middle of the 1880s, a number of artists became disaffected with impressionism. Monet began to explore painting in a series, or creating groups of works of almost identical subjects. The series paintings were a break from impressionism in two critical respects: the works, based on campaigns in front of the motif, were usually extensively reworked in the studio and lacked the spontaneity integral to impressionism; and, the motif itself was secondary to effects of light and weather.

The new qualities of Monet's series paintings were given concentrated expression in the Rouen Cathedral paintings, in which the stone facade fills the canvases. Monet showed 20 of the 30 extant Cathedral works, among them this one, as a group in an 1895 exhibition. Individual paintings, named according to the view and weather conditions depicted, are chiefly distinguished by color, which assumes the principal role in the series. The cumulative impression reported by visitors extended beyond the impact of individual works. The rich surfaces of the paintings seem to imitate the textural fabric of the cathedral's carved stone. Individually the paintings depict a religious edifice, but collectively the series becomes a denial of the solidity of Rouen Cathedral as an entity, and gives precedence to artistic concerns of light, color, and mood.

In late January or early February 1892, Monet rented rooms across from Rouen cathedral. He remained until spring, painting its looming façade many times, most often as we see it here, close up and cropped to the sides. The next winter he returned to paint the cathedral again, making in all more than 30 views of it. But it was less the carved Gothic façade that was Monet's subject than the atmosphere—the enveloppe—that surrounded the building. "To me the motif itself is an insignificant factor," Monet said. "What I want to reproduce is what exists between the motif and me."

Inscription

lower left: Claude Monet 94

Marks and Labels

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Provenance

The artist to James F. Sutton [d. 1915], New York; by inheritance to his wife; (Sutton sale, American Art Association, New York, 26 October 1933, no. 58); purchased by Wilbur L. Cummings, Greenwich, CT; sold 1935 to Chester Dale [1882-1962], New York; bequest 1963 to NGA.

Exhibition History

1895
Exposition des Tableaux, Galerie Durand-Ruel, Paris, 1895, no. 20.
1896
Marvelous Paintings of Cathedral Rouen by Claude Monet, The American Art Galleries, New York, 1896, uncertain cat. no.
1965
The Chester Dale Bequest, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1965, unnumbered checklist.
1980
Post-Impressionism: Cross-Currents in European and American Painting 1880-1906, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1980, no. 28 (incorrect repro. of 1963.10.179, Rouen Cathedral, West Façade, Sunlight).
2010
From Impressionism to Modernism: The Chester Dale Collection, National Gallery of Art, January 2010-January 2012, unnumbered catalogue, repro.

Bibliography

1965
Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Paintings & Sculpture of the French School in the Chester Dale Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 96, repro.
1965
Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 92
1968
European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 82, repro.
1974
Wildenstein, Daniel. Claude Monet: biographie et catalogue raisonné. 5 vols. Lausanne and Paris, 1974-1991: 3:no. 1351.
1975
European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 240, repro.
1984
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 487, no. 716, color repro.
1985
European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 277, repro. 278 (repro. for 1963.10.49 incorrectly printed with entry for 1963.10.179 and vice-versa).
1992
National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 203, repro.
1998
Klein, John. "The Dispersal of the Modernist Series," Oxford Art Journal 21 (1998):repro 125
2000
Kirsh, Andrea, and Levenson, Rustin S. Seeing Through Paintings: Physical Examination in Art Historical Studies. Physical Examination in Art Historical Studies, vol. 1. New Haven, 2000: 174-175, color fig. 181-184.
2004
Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 384-385, no. 318, color repro.
2012
Kennicott, Philip. "French Rooms Reopen, With Different Accents." Washington Post 135, no. 55 (January 29, 2012): E25.

Technical Summary

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Related Works

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