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Rouen Cathedral. Façade and Tour d’Albane. Grey weather

Claude Monet

(1840 - 1926) | 909.32

Date : 1894 | Medium : Oil on canvas

The Rouen Cathedral series features no fewer than twenty-eight views of the west façade at different times of day. The whole series was painted between 1892 and 1893, post-dated 1894. The art dealer Durand-Ruel exhibited twenty of these paintings in 1895 and they attracted the admiration of Degas, Cézanne, Pissarro and Renoir.

In his famous article ‘The Revolution of the Cathedrals’, which appeared in La Justice on 20 May 1895, Clemenceau analyses Monet’s undertaking: ‘As long as the sun shines upon it, Rouen Cathedral will have as many forms of existence as man can make divisions of time. The perfect eye would distinguish them all, since they sum themselves up in vibrations perceptible even to our current retinas. Monet’s eye, the eye of a precursor, leads the way and guides us in the visual evolution which renders our perception of the universe ever more penetrating and subtle.’

This view of the façade is among those painted from Mauquit’s gift shop at number 81 of the rue Grand-Pont. It is impossible, however, to determine with any precision the moment of the day captured here, as only the shifts in visual perception that occur in misty weather, caused by the particles of water saturating the atmosphere, have really held the artist’s attention. The heavy skies typical of Rouen’s weather have cast a veil over the building, rendered in shades of grey and blue that are warmed only by a touch of orange on the clock face, the only note of pure colour in the composition. The vertical lines that give the architecture its dynamism emerge with greater clarity in this painting, which is perhaps one of the reasons why, in 1895, François Depeaux chose it for his collection.