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An Art Dealer Just Found a Forgotten Monet Pastel Hidden Behind Another Drawing

The pastel depicts a lighthouse and jetty near Monet’s childhood home

A photograph of Claude Monet in his gardens circa 1917 (Étienne Clémentel, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)
smithsonian.com

Claude Monet, now recognized as a pillar of French Impressionist painting, is best known for his shimmering works in oil paint, but his pastels and drawings are also transfixing, though rare. When art dealer Jonathan Green purchased two pastels by the master at a 2014 auction in Paris, he didn’t know he was getting a great deal. For The Guardian, Dalya Alberge reports:

Green headed home from France with what he thought were two wonderful, rare pastel studies of skies, in which Monet explored fleeting effects of nature and light. It was only later that he discovered the hidden treasure taped up under the mount of one of the sky pastels – a depiction of the jetty and the lighthouse at Le Havre in Normandy, where Monet grew up.

Given the delicacy of the workss, Green called in a paper conservator, Jane McCausland, to carefully remove the tape and free the third pastel. There’s no question the pastel is by Monet. The works were a gift from the artist to Anne-Marie Durand-Ruel, the granddaughter of his art healer, for her wedding in 1924. Green bought them from the family and now all three pastels are up for auction again.

Such is the art world — where masterpieces are discovered decades later, perhaps naively placed in the background set of movies, or simply packed away and forgotten.

At the Richard Green Gallery’s website, senior researcher Susan Morris writes of the newly found pastel:

[Monet] exploits the blue colour of the paper to evoke the moisture-laden, azure-tinted coastal light. Wispy clouds are suggested by sinuous, dragged lines of white and grey-blue, the waves by interwoven, undulating strokes of blue, green and cream. There is tremendous confidence and joie-de-vivre in the way in which Monet suggests the powerful horizontal thrust of the jetty, the coloured shadows playing on the shaft of the lighthouse and the holidaymakers who stroll along the jetty, enjoying the sea air. Predominant tones of blue, yellow-cream and black are offset by a single, red-clad figure among the throng.

Likely, the pastels all come from a period in the late 1860s when Monet was a struggling artist, visiting the area around Le Havre where his father and aunt still lived. Monet deemphasized his pastels during his life, instead preferring to project the idea that his oil paintings were done en plein air and not informed by previously drafted studies drafted beforehand. However he did value the pastels. He usually signed them and often gifted them to family and friends. 

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