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Claude Monet (1840-1926)
Impression, soleil levant

1872
toile (peinture à l’huile) H. 50 cm ; l. 65 cm (sans cadre) ; H. 75 cm ; l. 91 cm ; P. 10 cm (avec cadre)
Signé en bas à gauche : Claude Monet et postèrieurement daté : 72.
inv. 4014
Don Eugène et Victorine Donop de Monchy (donateurs) (23/05/1940 acquis)
A stay at the Hôtel Amirauté in Le Havre around November 1872 provided Monet with the subject of his most famous painting, Impression, Sunrise. From the window of his room, the artist quickly painted a view to the southeast of the outer harbor, seen in the early morning hours. The outlines of the Quai au Bois on the left and, on the right, of the Quai Courbe, where work is under way, structure the composition. The central opening indicates the location of the tide lock for transatlantic ships that opens onto the Bassin de l’Eure. Cranes, smokestacks, and masts are bathed in the vapors and mists of an autumn dawn. The rowboats of ferrymen in the foreground and the bright orange sun and its reflections were added at the end, when Monet was completing his picture. Painted in just a few hours, this hazy image surprised viewers with the unusual freedom of its handling. The artist decided to include it in the first exhibition by the Société Anonyme des Artistes Peintres, Sculpteurs, Graveurs et Lithographes, held in Nadar’s former studio in 1874. When enjoined to come up with a title for the catalogue, and reckoning that the work couldn’t decently pass for a view of Le Havre, he called it Impression. The term, springing from the jargon used by painters, had been an artistic watchword since the middle of the century, reflecting the growing interest in capturing the atmosphere of a scene, or impression, rather than giving a painstaking description of nature. Sent to report on the event by the satirical magazine Le Charivari, the very conservative Louis Leroy immediately made the connection between the title chosen by Monet and the controversial aspirations of young painters championing this practice of outdoor work. It provided the inspiration for the title of his biting article, “L’exposition des impressionnistes” (April 25, 1874). A few days later the critic Jules Castagnary, a fervent champion of these artists, used the term Impressionists with a positive meaning. From then on it designated the group formed by Monet and his friends. Today, all this is symbolized by Impression, Sunrise.