Friday 19 December 2014

'Masterpiece is vital for the nation'

Published 02/07/2014 | 02:30

Monet's Argenteuil Basin with a Single Sailboat
Monet's Argenteuil Basin with a Single Sailboat

OF all the impressionists, Claude Monet's hazy apparitions are a national gallery's major attraction.

Argenteuil, a picturesque town on the river Seine, not far from central Paris, was where he lived for four years in his early thirties. He often worked from a boat/ studio, to closely observe the effects of light on the water.

He was joined there by Renoir, Manet and Sisley for a time in Argenteuil. The area provided the motif for some of their most characteristic paintings.

Monet's depictions of the bridge at Argenteuil, its red boats, its translucent light in sun and snow, can be found in collections throughout the world, including the Metropolitan Museum New York, the National Gallery London and L'Orangerie, Paris.

So, the damage to 'Argenteuil Basin with a Single Sailboat' was a catastrophe for the National Gallery. There are only three Monet works on public view in the State (though there are a few in private collections); the other two are in the Hugh Lane Gallery.

'Argenteuil Basin with a Single Sailboat' was painted in 1874, the year of the first Impressionist Exhibition. The work has all Monet's hallmarks of the fleeting effect of light dissolving on water and shimmering reflections of trees and sky.

With most of our National Gallery closed off for renovation, having a masterpiece such as this back on view it vital for the nation and our visitors. Though there is mention that it is worth €10m, a 1906 'Nympheas' (waterlilies) by Monet sold in London last week for €40m. On Monday Francis Bacon Triptych sold at Sotheby's for €33m. We might be somewhat conservative with our Monet.

It will be a pleasure to see it on display in Dublin once more.

Deirdre Conroy is an art and architectural historian

Irish Independent

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