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Impressionist Normandy. First stop: Vétheuil

On May 12, 2023, the lucky participants in the "Normandy Impressionist" journey will make a first stop in Vétheuil,

145 years ago, in August 1878, Claude Monet, his wife Camille, their two children Jean and Michel aged 11 years and 5 months settled in a house located at the exit of this town of 600 inhabitants, on the road of La Roche-Guyon.

They are not alone. Driven by bankruptcy and the dispersion of his property, one of Monet's first patrons, Ernest Hoschedé, his wife Alice and their 6 children joined them.

It is therefore 4 adults, 8 children, not to mention the staff that they cannot manage to do without, who will share this modest house and its garden for 3 years.

La maison des familles Monet et Hoschedé à Vétheuil de nos jours.
The house of the Monet and Hoschedé families in Vétheuil today.

Once installed, Monet works tirelessly. The climate was harsh, the winter of 1878 was one of the most rigorous.

Camille falls ill, Monet's paintings sell poorly or not at all. The painter was dependent on his friends, first and foremost Gustave Caillebotte who granted him an advance of 1000 francs in July 1879 and paid for the term of the pied à terre that Monet had kept in Paris, rue de Vintimille. Doubt sets in. What if Monet had reached his maximum? If his creativity had dried up?

Émile Zola wrote at the time: "Monsieur Monet has yielded too much to his ease of production. Many sketches have come out of his studio in difficult times and it is worth nothing, it pushes a painter down the slope of junk. ."

On September 5, 1879, Camille died. Monet is in complete disarray. He paints in his studio, The following winter, it is freezing cold, the creditors besiege the house.

Tombe de Camille Monet, née Doncieux. © Olivier Corsan
Tomb of Camille Monet, born Doncieux. © Olivier Corsan

If Ernest Hoschedé struggles in Paris to find a job, he also tries to place Monet's paintings. The latter went regularly to the capital via Mantes station, which he reached by borrowing Father Papavoine's cart. The seasons follow one another, Alice Hoschedé and Claude Monet have developed a loving bond that no longer deceives anyone.

Claude Monet. Vue de Vétheuil. 1879. National Gallery of Victoria
Claude Monet. Vétheuil. 1879. National Gallery of Victoria

The years that Claude Monet spent in Vétheuil were among the most difficult, but also the most prolific of his life as a man and painter. He painted no less than 200 canvases there, he lost Camille, found Alice, overcame his doubts, affirmed his character and his resilience.

Claude Monet. Le jardin à Vétheuil. 1880. National Gallery of Art Washington DC
Claude Monet. The garden in Vétheuil. 1880. National Gallery of Art Washington DC

In this painting dated 1880, we can see the little Michel Monet near a wheelbarrow, in the middle of heliotrope flowers. Jean-Pierre Hoschedé, who is a year older than him, stands in the background with his mother Alice. Camille has been dead for a year. A new page will soon turn with the installation of Claude, Alice and the children in Poissy in 1881 then in Giverny from 1883.

To be continued... in the footsteps of Monet and his impressionist friends.

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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