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  • Claude Monet
    Nov 14, 1840 - Dec 5, 1926
  • La Debacle a Vetheuil - Claude Monet was a French painter, initiator, leader, and unswerving advocate of the Impressionist style. He is regarded as the archetypal Impressionist in that his devotion to the ideals of the movement was unwavering throughout his long career, and it is fitting that one of his pictures - Impression: Sunrise (Musée Marmottan, Paris; 1872) - gave the group his name.
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La Debacle a Vetheuil
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  • La Debacle a Vetheuil

  • Claude Monet
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  • 1880
    Oil on canvas
    Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Spain.

    La Débacle à Vétheuil is one of the nearly twenty paintings of the ice floes that Monet did. This painting comes from the Fundación Collección Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid.

    Monet painted La Débacle à Vétheuil at a time when he was very poor and almost broke. He lived in a joint household with another family, the Hoschedés. There were not very many patrons of Monet's work because the people who liked to buy his paintings at this time liked still lifes. Monet preferred landscapes and painted very few still lifes. Monet was not selling enough paintings, until his one man show at a gallery in the office of the magazine La Vie Moderne turned his career around. By the end of his life he was very well known--a French national icon--and also very rich.

    La Débacle à Vétheuil is basically "The Breakup of the Ice at Vétheuil." The Seine River flows through Vétheuil, and during the terrible winter of 1879 the Seine froze. In early January 1880 the ice broke up and started rushing down the river, clearing whatever was in its path, with tremendous sound. Monet was amazed at this spectacle, and he used this opportunity to paint the breakup of the ice in a series of paintings. These works led to Monet's formal development of serial paintings. Monet was able to express his thoughts in many different ways by painting all the different versions of the breakup of the ice.

    La Débacle à Vétheuil has different colors than most of the other ice floe paintings that Monet did. It has reds, browns, and more colors than some of the other ice floe paintings, such as the University of Michigan Museum of Art's La Débacle. That painting has a lot of blues, mauves, and whites, and gives it more of a feeling of winter. On the other hand, if you look at La Débacle à Vétheuil from Madrid, it seems as though it is about to be spring, because of the warm greens and magentas used in the painting. Since the ice was moving past so quickly, it was probably impossible for Monet to paint more than a sketch. Later, in his studio, he would finish the painting.

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Other paintings by Claude Monet:

La Chapelle de Notre-Dame-de Grace, Honfleur
La Chapelle de Notre-Dame-de Grace, Honfleur
La costa a Sainte-Adresse
La costa a Sainte-Adresse
La Falaise d'Amont
La Falaise d'Amont
La Falaise d'Aval, La Porte et l'Aiguille
La Falaise d'Aval, La Porte et l'Aiguille
Claude MonetIn 1890 Monet had bought a strip of marshland across the road from his house and flower garden, through which flowed a tributary of the Epte. By diverting this stream, he began to construct a water-lily garden. Soon weeping willows, iris, and bamboo grew around a free-form pool, clusters of lily pads and blossoms floated on the quiet water, and a Japanese bridge closed the composition at one end. By 1900 this unique product of Monet's imagination (for his Impressionism had become more subjective) was in itself a major work of environmental art--an exotic lotus land within which he was to meditate and paint for more than 20 years. The first canvases of lilies, water, and the Japanese bridge were only about one yard square, but their unprecedented open composition, with the large blossoms and pads suspended as if in space, and the azure water in which clouds were reflected, implied an encompassing environment beyond the frame. This concept of embracing spatiality, new to the history of painting and only implicit in the first water-lily paintings, was expanded by 1925 into a cycle of huge murals to be installed in Paris in two 80-foot oval rooms in the Orangerie of the Tuileries. These were described in 1952 by the painter André Masson as "the Sistine Chapel of Impressionism." This crowning achievement of Monet's long, probing study of nature--his striving to render his impressions, as he said, "in the face of the most fugitive effects"--was not dedicated until after his death. The many large studies for the Orangerie murals, as well as other unprecedented and unique works painted in the water garden between 1916 and 1925, were almost unknown until the 1950s but are now distributed throughout the major private collections and museums of the world. Despite failing eyesight, Monet continued to paint almost until his death in 1926.