Saturday, May 19, 2007


Claude Monet (1840-1926) was the founder of French impressionist painting and the most consistent and prolific practitioner of the movement's philosophy of expressing one's perceptions before nature, especially as applied to out-door landscape painting. The term Impressionism is derived from the title of his painting Impression, Sunrise.

After the outbreak of the franco-Prussian war in 1870, Monet took refuge in London in September 1870. While there, he studied the works of Constable and Turner, both of whose landscapes would serve to inspire Monet's innovations in the study of color. In the Spring of 1871, Monet's works were refused authorisation to be included in the Royal Academy exhibition.

In 1872, he painted Impression, Sunrise depicting a Le Havre landscape. It hung in the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874 and is now displayed in the Musée Marmottan in Paris. From the painting's title, art critic Louis Leroy coined the term "Impressionism". La Terrasse à Sainte Adresse (oil canvas 98x130cm) was painted in the summer of 1867 when Monet was in desperate financial straits and had to ask assistance from his father (seated in the canned chair in the picture).

The picture was eventually bought by the Reverend Theo Pitcairn, heir of a very wealthy family of Pittsburg (Pennsylvania), in 1926 for $ 11,080 from a dealer in 57th Street in New York. In 1967 David Bathurst, director at Christie's in London, spent a weekend at Bryn Athyn, a small village of Pennsylvania where Theo Pitcairn' s property was and where he had established the seat of the General Church of Jerusalem.

During his stay, David accidentally found that Theo Pitcairn had got in touch with David Wildenstein, the immensely powerful Parisian dealer, and Peter Wilson, Chairman of Sotheby's : he pressed Theo about giving the auction of La Terrasse to Christie's. Theo Pitcairn eventually agreed to let Christie's auction off "La Terrasse" which arrived in London in December 1967.

The American TV network CBS made a film for their program 60 Minutes about the London Art market and the arrival of the picture : the film went coast to coast and was invaluable publicity as La Terrasse sold for £ 650,000, just over $1,4 million to the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Theo Pitcairn gave the proceeds to the charity he had founded, the Beneficia Foundation.

Monet died of lung cancer in December 1926 at the age of 86 and is buried in the Giverny church cemetery.

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