Poppies near Vétheuil, ca. 1879
Oil on canvas, 73 x 92 cm
Signed lower right: Claude Monet
There is a decade between the "Dinner" and the "Poppies near Vétheuil", filled with both successes and disappointments. It includes the actual birth of Impressionism, involuntarily furnished with a label by Monet with his picture title "Impression, Sunrise" at the first exhibition of the group in 1874. In the summer of the same year these artists collaborated in an unprecedented way in Argenteuil, and this resulted in the definitive emergence of open-air painting. At the same time, these painters were plunged in ever more unbearable distress – owing to a general economic crisis in France after the defeat in war. This was not the least reason why Monet increasingly detached himself from Paris and in January 1878 settled in the village of Vétheuil on the right bank of the Seine, to remain there till the end of 1881. He could not thus remedy his distress, increased by the death of Camille, his wife, but life there was at least cheap, and he found many subjects in Vétheuil as in Lavacourt on the other side of the Seine. In Argenteuil he had first painted on a boat to catch all the brilliant glitter on the water, and he continued to do this in Vétheuil.
Monet, in the Bührle Collection's picture, did not paint Vétheuil from the river or from the opposite bank, as has been falsely assumed, but he sets up his easel in the flowering meadows of the Vienne, where the children pick poppies, with a view of the church between the gentle hills. Monet no longer paints this under the influence of Manet, but with a dense texture of spots of colour finely applied, which melts objects and makes the atmosphere the actual theme.