From a distance of ten feet or so, Monet's brushstrokes blend to yield a convincing view of the Seine and the pleasure boats that drew tourists to Argenteuil. Up close, however, each dab of paint is distinct, and the scene dissolves into a mosaic of paint—brilliant, unblended tones of blue, red, green, yellow. In the water, quick, fluid skips of the brush mimic the lapping surface. In the trees, thicker paint is applied with denser, stubbier strokes. The figure in the sailboat is only a ghostly wash of dusty blue, the women rowing nearby are indicated by mere shorthand.
In the early years of impressionism, Monet, Renoir, and others strove to capture the fleeting effects of light and atmosphere on the landscape and to transcribe directly and quickly their sensory experience of it. Monet advised the American artist Lilla Cabot Perry, "When you go out to paint, try to forget what objects you have before you, a tree, a house, a field or whatever. Merely think here is a little square of blue, here an oblong of pink, here a streak of yellow, and paint it just as it looks to you, the exact color and shape, until it gives your own naïve impression of the scene before you."
lower right: Claude Monet
Marks and Labels
(Durand-Ruel, Paris); sold 1890 to Henri Vever [1854-1943], Paris; (his sale, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, 1-2 February 1897, no. 78); purchased by (Georges Petit) for Marie-Albert, vicomte de Curel [1827-1908], Paris; by descent in his family; (de Curel sale, Palais Galliera, Paris, 21 June 1961, lot C); purchased by (Hector Brame, Paris) for Mr. Paul Mellon, Upperville, Virginia; gift 1983 to NGA.
- French Paintings from the Collections of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon and Mrs. Mellon Bruce, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1966, no. 83, repro.
- Gifts to the Nation: Selected Acquisitions from the Collections of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1986, unnumbered checklist, repro.
- Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Art, Washington, State Hermitage Museum, Leningrad; State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow, 1986, no. 19, repro.
- Claude Monet: 1840-1926, The Art Institute of Chicago, 1995, no. 37, repro., as The Highway Bridge at Argenteuil.
- Impressionists on the Seine: A Celebration of Renoir's "Luncheon of the Boating Party", The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C., 1996-1997, pl. 31, repro.
- An Enduring Legacy: Masterpieces from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1999-2000, no cat.
- The Impressionists at Argenteuil, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, 2000, no. 28, repro., as The Highway Bridge and Boat Basin.
- Monet and the Seine: Impressions of a River, Philbrook Museum of Art, Tulsa; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 2014-2015, no. 12, repro. (shown only in Houston).
- Goldwater, Robert. "The Glory that was France." Art News 65 (March 1966): 86, repro. 45.
- Wildenstein, Daniel. Claude Monet: biographie et catalogue raisonné. 5 vols. Lausanne and Paris, 1974-1991: no. 312.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 487, no. 719, color repro.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 281, repro.
- Kopper, Philip. America's National Gallery of Art: A Gift to the Nation. New York, 1991: 277, 279, color repro.
- Wildenstein, Daniel. Monet: Catalogue raisonné - Werkverzeichnis. 4 vols. Cologne and Paris, 1996: 2:no. 312.
- Kelder, Diane. The Great Book of French Impressionism, 1997, no. 127, repro.
- The Impressionists at Argenteuil. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington; Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, 2000: no. 28.
- Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 387, no. 321, color repro.
- Trescott, Jacqueline. “Making an Even Better Impression.” Washington Post 135, no. 146 (April 29, 2012): E6, repro.