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Claude's teapot

Although this is not what we immediately remember from his abundant career, Claude Monet was a prodigious painter of still lifes. Completed two years before the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874, this painting of a porcelain tea service and sage leaf demonstrates the artist's remarkable ability to render texture.

Telemaco Signorini. Le Pont de Waverley à Edinburgh. 1881.
Claude Monet. Nature Morte. Service à thé. 1872. Dallas Museum of Art

Let's take a closer look at the composition of this remarkable still life. A table covered with a white tablecloth-checkerboard pattern, is apparently arranged against a painted wall. The edge of it, in the background, cuts the canvas into two equal parts. A red tray with a porcelain teapot, two cups and two saucers occupies the lower right plane of the painting, balanced on the left plane by a plane of sage protruding from a pot.

Claude Monet. Nature Morte à la théière. Détail
Claude Monet. Nature Morte à la théière. Détail

The rendering of the porcelain, the precision of the pattern and the delicacy of the reflections on the lacquered surface of the top are amazing. One of the cups is empty while the other contains tea. A small lonely spoon is placed on the left, at the crossroads of the folds of the tablecloth..

Claude Monet. Nature Morte à la théière. Détail
Claude Monet. Nature Morte à la théière. Détail

One cannot help but compare her treatment with that reserved by Édouard Manet for his famous asparagus, eight years later, a nod to the collector Charles Ephrussi. Same line, same inclination, same solitude, same tone-on-tone treatment, white, grey, silver for the spoon on the tablecloth, green ocher, beige and gray for the asparagus on the table.


Édouard Manet. L'asperge. 1880. Musée d'Orsay.
Édouard Manet. L'asperge. 1880. Musée d'Orsay.
Claude Monet. Nature Morte à la théière. Détail
Claude Monet. Nature Morte à la théière. Détail

The sage plant, for its part, offers its downy leaves whose deep green tones contrast with the clarity of the tablecloth and the bright red of the plateau. Porcelain, crystal and reflections on marble also inspired Berthe Morisot in her interpretation of a similar theme, painted in 1877.

Berthe Morisot. Nature morte soupière et pomme. 1877. Denver Art Museum
Berthe Morisot. Nature morte soupière et pomme. 1877. Denver Art Museum

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In his art history lectures, Fabrice Roy combines the past with the present, in a poetic and playful evocation of the French 19th century...



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