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Getty Museum Acquires Early Impressionist Painting by Claude Monet

November 12, 1998

Los Angeles, Calif.- The J. Paul Getty Museum announced today its acquisition of Sunrise, one of the first works painted by Claude Monet (French, 1840-1926) in the style that was to make him famous and which gave rise to the term "Impressionist." Created during the spring of 1873, the painting depicts the bustling port of Le Havre on the northern French coast, as light dawns on the water. In this seminal work, Monet took the idea of plein air painting (painting outside directly from nature) to new heights, and thus entered a new phase in his career.

In Sunrise, a small sailboat with two figures glides through the shimmering water of the harbor as a rowboat passes behind. Barely discernible through a cool haze are masts of large clipper ships at right and, closer by on the left, pack boats with smoke billowing from their stacks. The iridescent blues and greens of water and damp air are lit up by the rising sun, which glimmers through the haze and dances on the water.

The picture was acquired through a private sale. It has been rarely exhibited and is in remarkable condition.

Deborah Gribbon, Deputy Director of the Museum and a specialist in 19th-century French art, said: "Monet had already developed his technique of broken, rhythmic brushwork, but in Sunrise he permits the forms themselves to dissolve into atmosphere. This ephemeral play of light, water, and air remains Monet's subject for the rest of his career. Monet created the painting largely out-of-doors but finished it in his studio, much like other plein-air painters of the period. What is unique, though, is his effort to leave the painting looking as fresh and spontaneous as if just painted at the moment of first encountering the seascape and sunrise before him. This lack of 'finish' is what made his paintings controversial in their time."

"This is a key addition for us," said John Walsh, Director. "It joins an important group of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings acquired over the last 15 years, including two other paintings by Monet- an early still life of flowers and the winter scene of 1891 from his Wheatstacks series. Now we have a painting that conveys the force and novelty of the Impressionists' breakthrough."

Monet traveled to Le Havre from his home in Argenteuil in the spring of 1873. While there he painted several paintings of its harbor. Sunrise is most closely related to the famous Impression, Sunrise (Paris, Musée Marmottan), painted during this trip. The title of this particular painting provoked a derisive art critic to coin the term "Impressionism" to describe pejoratively what is now perhaps the most popular art movement of all time. Both paintings employ a similar technique of broken brushwork. It is uncertain which one came first, but Sunrise may represent the artist's initial response to his subject prior to the more classically composed Impression. Now measuring 19 1/4 x 23 5/8 inches, Sunrise was at one point a slightly larger work whose canvas was restretched and subsequently refined by the artist himself resulting in a somewhat different, more closely cropped composition. Mark Leonard, Paintings Conservator, comments, "One can examine the painting without its frame and see approximately 1/2 an inch of the larger painted canvas wrapping around its stretcher bar. It provides a rare insight into an artist's working process."

"The Board and I were overjoyed to make this purchase," said Barry Munitz, President and Chief Executive Officer of the J. Paul Getty Trust. "Not only is it beautiful, but it represents a great moment in art history, and will serve important educational purposes for our audiences."

The painting will be placed on permanent view on November 17, 1998, where it will be seen with the other works by Monet and his contemporaries, including Renoir, Pissarro, and Manet.

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About the Getty:

The J. Paul Getty Trust is an international cultural and philanthropic institution devoted to the visual arts that features the Getty Conservation Institute, the Getty Foundation, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and the Getty Research Institute. The J. Paul Getty Trust and Getty programs serve a varied audience from two locations: the Getty Center in Los Angeles and the Getty Villa in Malibu.

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