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The Seine at Port-Villez

Claude Monet

(1840 - 1926) | 909.1.33

Date : 1894 | Medium : Oil on canvas

The Seine at Port-Villez reveals a profound change in Claude Monet’s work, not only in his technique, but also in his approach to reality. More attuned than ever to the mists shrouding the banks of the Seine and the way they transformed the play of reflections, he abandoned the grainy texture of his cathedrals and adopted henceforth a style characterised by blended brushstrokes, creating a uniform finish so thin that the canvas shows through. The artist remained faithful to his palette, from the pure blue of the hills that becomes iridescent with notes of yellow and salmon down on the riverbanks reflected in the water, to the blue-green of the trees, lightened with touches of ochre. He finely tunes his range of colours with milky hues, giving an overall tonal impression of almond green. The effect is enhanced by the dissolving of lines; it seems the very limits of reality have been erased.

This new approach to the motif is perhaps a consequence of the artist’s exchange of ideas with Mallarmé. For the latter, too, reality could only be glimpsed through an accumulation of delicately-sensed, imprecise and transitory impressions.

Thus the hazy landscapes of the 1890s, painted not far from Giverny, such as this one in the Musée de Rouen, are a milestone that prefigures the Water Lilies and a final relinquishing of naturalistic representation in favour of a vision of reality beyond normal human perception.