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Faure, Monet and the fog of Vétheuil...

Until next Sunday March 5, the Moulins media library pays homage to baritone Jean-Baptiste Faure (1830-1914), lyrical singer, composer and great collector of Impressionist works,... All by himself, he possessed no less of sixteen Degas, sixty-seven Manets, sixty-three Monets, thirty-seven Pissarros and fifty-eight Sisleys.

Édouard Manet. Jean-Baptiste Faure . 1882-1883. Metropolitan Museum of Art. NYC
Édouard Manet. Jean-Baptiste Faure . 1882-1883. Metropolitan Museum of Art. NYC

Son of a singer from the cathedral of Moulins, Jean-Baptiste Faure was a chorister at the Italian Theater before being admitted to the Paris Conservatory from 1850 to 1852. He began an immense career on the greatest stages, notably at Covent Garden in London or the Paris Opera,

Claude Monet. Boulevard des Capucines. 1873. Musée Pouchkine. Moscou
Claude Monet. Boulevard des Capucines. 1873. Musée Pouchkine. Moscou

Friend of Édouard Manet but also of Monet, Sisley, Pissarro and Degas, Jean-Baptiste Faure was one of the great collectors of the Impressionists. Many masterpieces, now dispersed in the greatest museums, had the singer as their first owner, such as Le Fifre and Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe by Édouard Manet (Musée d'Orsay, Paris), Examination of Dance by Edgar Degas (Metropolitan Museum, New York), Boulevard des Capucines by Claude Monet (Pushkin Museum, Moscow), L'Hermitage, Pontoise by Camille Pissarro (Guggenheim Museum, New York).

Camille Pissarro. L'Hermitage à Pontoise. 1867.Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Camille Pissarro. L'Hermitage à Pontoise. 1867.Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

One fine morning in 1873, Claude Monet showed up quietly with a painting under his arm at the baritone. Jean-Baptiste Faure was kind and welcoming.

- I'm glad to see you dear friend, especially if you bring me a masterpiece.

- I don't know, said Monet, I did my best

Faure takes the painting, contemplates it for a moment:

- Come on, but that's not it at all, my dear child! If I buy your paintings without haggling, it's for the painting! There is no paint here! You obviously forgot! Just canvas is not enough. Bring me this! Paint it and maybe I'll buy it. By the way, now you can tell me. What do you think that represents?

Monet replies:

- I do not think. I know it represents the sunrise in the fog of Vétheuil, on the Seine. I was early in my little canoe, waiting for the light effect. The sun has appeared, and I, at the risk of displeasing you, I painted what I saw. Maybe that's why you don't like it.

- Ah, I understand very well now. You have to know. Hahaha yes the Seine, and then the mist which, at the first flares of light, blurs the view. All the same, there is not enough paint. Put on a little more paint, and I'm well able to buy the canvas !

Claude Monet. Vétheuil dans le brouillard. 1879. Musée Marmottan Monet.
Claude Monet. Vétheuil dans le brouillard. 1879. Musée Marmottan Monet.

Six years later, amateurs visit Claude Monet, in search of a painting to their liking.

Jean-Baptiste Faure is among them. The sunrise at Vétheuil is on an easel.

- Ah, you have a rather pretty thing there, dear friend. A haze of clarity. The church, the turrets, the pavilions, the cornices of whiteness which pierce the cloud, the village, which we cannot see, is reflected in the river. Do you want 600 Fr.?

Claude Monet straightens up, all vibrating.

- Have you forgotten that you refused me 50 Fr six years ago? Well, I'll tell you one thing. Not only will you not get it for 50 Fr., not for 600, but if you offered me 50,000 Fr. for it, you wouldn't get it either.

Monet never parted with this painting, which was in his dining room at Giverny.


Place du Maréchal de Lattre de Tassigny

03000 Moulins


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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