October 2010: Claude Monet "Snow in the Setting Sun"

Published on: 02 / 10 / 2010

Authors of this entry:
  • Magdalena Palica

The canvas, painted by Claude Monet in 1869, depicts a path in Louveciennes, covered with melting snow patches which reflect the evening sun. An apparently non-alluring view of a small town road, coated with mud, in the painter's picture turned into a vibrant composition of light which delights spectators.

Snow-covered landscapes were among themes quite often undertaken by Claude Monet. The most famous ones belong to a series of paintings from the last decade of the 19th century, depicting haystacks in different hours of the day and seasons of the year. As one can see in the example from Silberberg’s collection, the painter faced the challenge of capturing sun reflections on snowy surface even in his early activity period. One of the long, tree-lined alleys of Louveciennes, which had inspired numerous artists, in Monet’s painting turned into a nearly symbolic landscape, reminiscent of some masterpieces by Caspar David Friedrich, whose works show small human shapes seemingly overwhelmed by predatory silhouettes of leafless trees. As if striving to console the figures lost in the winter landscape, Monet depicted them in couples, rather than individually (like in the analogically composed depiction of a road in Argenteuil from the National Gallery of London). The composition is enlivened by warm rays of the setting sun as well.

The small village of Louveciennes, a mere half an hour by train away from Paris, has been immortalized by famous impressionists in more than hundred canvas paintings. The house of Renoir’s mother stood there, frequented by the artist himself. On the turn of 1860s and 1870s, i.e. in the period pivotal for the birth of impressionistic painting, Pissarro lived there. Also Sisley and Monet created some of their works in Louveciennes.

The painting which formerly belonged to Silberberg is currently housed in Musée de Beaux-Arts et de la Céramique in Rouen. It is worth mentioning that in 2008 the picture was displayed at an exhibition by the significant title "Looking for Owners" (the French catalogue was titled “A qui appartenaient ces tableaux?”, which translates into English as “Who do these paintings belong to?”), an initiative of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, arranged by the Museum of History and Judaism of Paris in cooperation with the Israel Museum of Jerusalem. Together with the painting formerly belonging to Silberberg’s collection fifty-two other paintings, mostly from the French state collections, were displayed at the same exhibition. Most of them were robbed by Nazis during WW2. The exhibition concentrated on intricate vicissitudes affecting the works of art whose legitimate owners haven’t been found so far or whose legal status is still unclear. Apart from Paris, Jerusalem was chosen as the location of the exhibition, with hope that the legitimate heirs of the paintings, the majority of which had formerly belonged to Jewish collections, would appear to reclaim their ownership. “Snow in the Setting Sun” by Monet was also amongst those paintings. It was put up to auction together with other works of art from the Silberberg’s collection in the salon of Georges Petit in 1932, but the confirmation of its sale is missing. If the painting didn’t change its owner then, most probably it was bidden at a coercive auction or confiscated by Nazis later, like most of the collection of the industrialist from Wroclaw.

Project co-financed by Ministry of Labour and Social Policy under Government Project – Civic Benefit Fund.
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