Winter Landscape with Evening Sky
Pastel on vellum
Inv. No. SG 410
23 × 32.6 cm
Claude Monet’s pastel drawings, which were long overshadowed by his paintings, reflect his impressionistic approach in both subject matter and its treatment. The artist greatly valued the qualities of pastel, a medium that combines the characteristics of drawing and painting, using it not so much to prepare for the composition of his plein-air paintings, but rather for stylistic studies executed as a means of exploring various means of expression.
Pastel chalk, with the special possibilities it offered for drawing in colour, was particularly highly regarded in late nineteenth-century France; before that it had enjoyed comparable popularity only once, about a hundred years earlier. It differs significantly from other drawing materials and techniques both in its consistency and in its appearance when applied. The dry pastel crayons are produced by a pressing process from a »pasta« of pigments and a water-soluble binder. The admixture of white chalk-dust gives the colours – which are available in a wide range of subtle gradations – their typically delicate character. The qualities of pastel allow the artist to model, blur and blend the colours in such a way that soft, painterly transitions are achieved. With their attractive, velvety texture, the colours are only loosely attached to the surface of the paper and thus react very sensitively to any shaking or impact.
In his Winter Landscape with Evening Sky, Monet did not concern himself with naturalistically drawn details but captured the mood of a fleeting moment during the cold season of the year. There are many places in the Seine region where Monet might have encountered this particular atmosphere. Beneath an evening sky suffused with pink, a mist is settling over the trees that tower up in the background. Horizontal, broken lines in pink and light blue convey the breadth of the sky, the outlines of a few clouds are indicated in pale yellow, and flecks of deep pink soften the transition to the tops of a stand of trees composed of vertical lines and loops of light and dark grey. In front of the elongated dark area – a grey-green bank which creates a sense of depth – lies a snow-covered meadow. Small sections of green on the ground and on the bushes, sketched in a linear manner, indicate vegetation that is still frozen but reveals signs of new growth in places.
Monet was still alive and already very famous in 1910, when this pastel as well as his painting Le Déjeuner (1868) were purchased for the Frankfurt collection under the direction of Georg Swarzenski. The painting Houses at the Water’s Edge (Zaandam) (1871/72) had already been on display since 1904. This pastel by Monet is an example – still extremely rare in German museums – of his skill in using this technique.