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Monet's poppies

Claude Monet was 33 years old when he painted this summer canvas in 1873. He lived in Argenteuil with his first wife Camille Doncieux, and their son Jean-Armand-Claude, then 6 years old. They are probably the ones in the foreground, in the tall grass at the bottom of an embankment dotted with poppies.

Camille Pissarro Bazincourt, effet de neige. Coucher du soleil, 1892, Huile sur toile, 32 x 41 cm, Hasso Platner Collection / Sammlung Hasso Plattner
Claude Monet, Coquelicots 1873 © RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d’Orsay) Hervé Lewandowski

The sky dotted with fair-weather cumulus diffuses a milky light that erases the shadows. The horizon, located in the center of the canvas, is delimited by a line of deep green trees that enclose a house that can be guessed in the distance.

Four figures, two women and two children, form a diagonal which follows the slope of the embankment and directs the gaze towards those in the foreground. The forms are moving, suggested, the faces have no modeling. But the talent of Claude Monet means that it is not necessary to understand the extraordinary serenity that emanates from the canvas.

This painting was shown at the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874, a year after it was made.


In this painting, painted 6 years later in 1879 in Vétheuil, poppies have literally taken over half of the space. Claude Monet's family and that of his penniless patron Ernest Hoschedé had moved the previous year to this village on the banks of the Seine to live together in a modest house flanked by a garden.

The scene is probably located on the left bank, near Lavacourt. In the background, we can see Vétheuil topped by its church in the hollow of two hills which delimit the horizon. The sky is tormented, with shades of luminous ash. The vegetation in the background with swirls of green and dark blue is not without announcing a certain Vincent Van Gogh.

Camille Doncieux-Monet was to die in September of the same year shortly after giving birth to the couple's second son, little Michel.

Vincent Van Gogh. Bateaux de pêche aux Saintes Maries. 1888
Mary Cassatt La cueillette des coquelicots vers 1875

At the same time, it was a veritable sea of poppies that Mary Cassatt painted, in a triangular composition of characters, under a milky sky.


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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