It’s fair to say that the 1860s was a pivotal decade in art history. Along came a group of artists who defied academic art in France.
They started painting outdoors, used bold brushstrokes, and completed paintings that can be described as painterly or even hazy.
Claude Monet (1840-1926) was one of the most important Impressionist artists in history and he stuck to his ideals for his entire career.
In this article, I’ll take a closer look at some of the most interesting facts about Bain à la Grenouillère, one of Monet’s masterpieces.
1. It was completed at the end of the 1860s
Claude Monet started drawing as a child and was especially interested in depicting landscapes outdoors. This wasn’t done by academic artists in the 19th century as paintings were only completed in studios.
He developed his unique style during the 1860s, a time when he studied art in Paris. This is when he started dedicating himself to painting “En Plein Air” or outdoors.
He had little success initially because the concept of producing art outside was too novel to be taken seriously. It did get traction among many of his young aspiring colleagues, though.
The Impressionists started exhibiting in the 1870s and although they were ridiculed at first, they radically changed the course of art history in the late 19th century.
Monet completed Bain à la Grenouillère in 1869, about 5 years before the first Impressionist exhibition took place.
2. It depicts a floating restaurant on the western outskirts of Paris
The painting depicts a scene on the banks of the river in Croissy-Sur-Seine, a suburb of Paris in the western part of the city.
Today, this place is part of the metropolitan area of Paris but this wasn’t the case at the time. It was, however, easily accessible by train which made it a great place for Monet to visit.
This place was bustling with middle-class tourists who visited La Grenouillères near the so-called “Flower Pot Island.” It was nicknamed “La Camembert” because of its distinctive shape.
As you can see, this tiny island only features one tree which made it a popular attraction at the time. The area also featured a spot to bathe in the river, a floating café, and a spa
3. It’s probably a sketch of a much bigger painting that Monet dreamed of
The French artist probably gave a hint as to why he completed this famous Impressionist painting. In a letter to his friend Frédéric Bazille he wrote:
I do have a dream, a painting, the baths of La Grenouillère, for which I have made some bad sketches (pochades), but it is only a dream.
Yes, this means that Monet considered Bain à la Grenouillère to be nothing more than a sketch of a much larger painting he had in mind.
The painter didn’t really intend to sell this paining because he surely deemed it unfinished at the time. It’s only when his style gained traction that he produced artworks as this one for commercial purposes.
4. Monet’s close friend Renoir produced a very similar painting at the same time
Monet didn’t visit this place alone because he was accompanied by his good friend Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), an aspiring artist he had studied with at the Académie Suisse in Paris.
There’s proof of this notion because there’s a painting by Renoir that depicts the exact same scene as in Monet’s work. His style is very similar as well and Renoir also became a renowned Impressionist.
It’s fairly certain that both artists worked side by side which is quite fascinating. Renoir’s painting is titled “La Grenouillère” and can be admired at the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm, Sweden.
5. It wasn’t the only famous painting that Monet completed here
Monet really liked this place and it became the inspiration for several of his works. He had to scramble to make a living at the time so he depicted the same scene from another angle as well.
This painting is titled “Bathers at la Grenouillère” and is part of the collection of the National Gallery in London.
We can see another approach to the small Flower Pot Island with several tourists crossing the gangplank to reach it. There are many boats in the foreground and the bathers can be seen in the background.
It’s likely that this work served as another sketch for the great vision he had to produce a monumental work of art depicting this establishment.
6. It was once part of one of the greatest art collections in the United States
As I mentioned, Claude Monet only considered this work to be a sketch of a much larger painting he had in mind.
This makes it all the more remarkable that it turned out to be one of his most famous works. Not only that, it became part of one of the greatest art collections in American history in the late 19th century.
Bain à la Grenouillère was first owned by Monet’s colleague Édouard Manet (1832-1883) and his wife following the artist’s death.
Art dealer Durand-Ruel acquired it from Madame Manet in 1886 and subsequently sold it to Louisine Havemeyer (1855-1929) for 12,500 francs in 1897.
She was an American art patron and collector who stored her collection at Fifth Avenue and East 66th Street in New York City.
7. How big is Bain à la Grenouillère by Claude Monet?
This painting was considered to be nothing more than a sketch which makes it remarkable that it’s not that small.
Bain à la Grenouillère by Claude Monet is an oil on canvas painting that has dimensions of 74.6 × 99.7 centimeters (29.4 x 39.3 inches).
8. Where can you find Monet’s painting today?
Louisine Havemeyer’s collection remained at her 3-story mansion in New York City, a building decorated by Louis Comfort Tiffany and Samuel Colman until she passed away in 1929.
She played a major role in introducing Impressionism to the United States but her collection was much more extensive than that. Some of the most notable works were paintings by Rembrandt, El Greco, and Botticelli.
She bequeathed her entire collection to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City in 1929 and you can still admire Monet’s masterpiece at the MET today.