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Our Impressionist Expert Reviews Monet’s Près Dieppe, Reflets sur la Mer


Leading light of the Impressionist movement and master of light and colour, Claude Monet has long been considered not only one of the world’s most important Impressionist artists but one of the most influential artists of all time.

Here at Trinity House Paintings, we are delighted to be responsible for the sale of a Monet original: Près Dieppe, reflets sur la mer, 1897. Part of a series of six paintings of the Normandy coast and created during a time of financial stability and artistic experimentalism, Près Dieppe is a fantastic example of this period in the artist’s life.

Our resident specialist in Impressionist art, Simon Mills, casts his expert eye over the piece to give us an insight into what makes it so special.

A Veil Torn

Monet’s love of the French coastline began in early childhood when his family moved him to the seaside town of Le Havre at the age of five, where the young Monet would skip school to roam the cliffs and beaches. However, the coast’s influence over his work only really began later in the 1850s, after a meeting with one of his great inspirations, Eugène Boudin.

Boudin was famed for his coastal landscapes and encouraged Monet to adopt his ‘en plein air’ technique of painting outdoors. Of this newfound style Monet said, “It was as if a veil was torn from my eyes; I had understood. I grasped what painting could be.” In a letter written from Pourville, a seaside resort near Dieppe, he wrote, “Finally I feel that I’m in my element.”

Claude Monet
Monet was not alone in his love of this area; Boudin, Delecroix, Corot, and Courbet had all painted the coastline too, so Monet may have felt as though he was returning with the very masters that taught him to paint in the first place. At the end of his career, Monet had painted over 50 pictures of the Northern French coastline.

Strength from the Sea

If the sea and its cliffs and beaches were one of his favourite subjects to paint, they were also his refuge; the place he would go in times of personal strife. He once famously said that he ‘gained strength from the sea air’. In the case of Près Dieppe, he ceased work on one of his famous series of waterlilies to retire to the coast and escape a troubled personal life.

If Monet’s personal life wasn’t going so well however, his career was booming. Près Dieppe was painted during a time where he had finally become highly regarded by contemporary critics, and his dealer Paul Duand-Ruel was able to sell more of his work at increasingly higher prices. It was this financial prosperity that gave Monet the freedom to travel and play with the more experimental themes present in Près Dieppe.

The 1890s saw Monet explore a different approach to his works, focussing almost exclusively on a series of paintings where one setting would be repeated several times, moving somewhat away from individual pieces during this period. He famously painted his Houses of Parliament and Rouen Cathedral series but he preferred the peace and quiet of the sea over the noise and chaos of the city and was drawn back to Normandy once more.

One of our previous notable sales from Claude Monet also includes Waterloo Bridge (pictured below)

Waterloo Bridge | Claude Monet | Notable Sales from Trinity House

It is a common misconception that he chose to paint a series as a method to explore the effect of light on a subject throughout the day. While there is an element of truth to this, he did regularly paint pieces at different times of the day – sometimes working on five or six canvasses at a time – more often the different canvasses reflected his mood, his state of mind, and his feelings at the time.

He was less interested in a faithful depiction of the scene and more in trying to represent the feelings that he was dealing with as he painted.

These motives, alongside inspiration taken from Boudin’s ‘en plein air’ techniques, Corot’s love of the beauty of nature, and the stylised asymmetrical compositions he saw in his beloved Japanese woodblock print collection, would all go on to form the crucial elements of Monet’s style during this period.

As art historian Paul Hayes Tucker says, “They are some of the least known paintings that he completed during the 1890s. They are also some of the most unusual and the most personal. At once hedonistic and introspective, they assert fundamental values that Monet held dear while they challenge notions that contemporary critics had claimed were central to his enterprise and to landscape painting at the end of the century.”

An Artist at His Peak

In this case, Près Dieppe, reflets sur la mer is a fantastic example of this period. The dreamily pale palette, the twinkling light on the sea, the asymmetric composition, and the solid cliff cropped in Japanese style, all washed with the characteristically tonal light of the Normandy coast, encompass both the Impressionist preoccupation with the fleeting effects of light and atmosphere and the inspirations that moved Monet to create during this time.

Originally exhibited at the Galerie Georges Petit in 1898, Près Dieppe was then purchased by renowned collector Julius Oehme in 1901. After being passed through several private collections and galleries, the piece journeyed to Japan in 1992 as part of the Les Nympheas de Louis Cane: Regard sur Claude Monet travelling exhibition due to its exemplary representation of the inspiration Monet took from Japanese art. Now safely here with us at Trinity House Paintings, we look forward to placing with a collector who will treasure this piece for what it is: a perfect example of an artist at his peak.

Monet, Près Dieppe, reflets sur la mer, 1897

Please get in touch if you’d like to speak to Simon, or another of our expert advisers, about this influential piece or any of our other impressionist masters.

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