Northwest of Paris, where the Seine gently meanders toward the ocean, is the location of Île de la Grande Jatte, a midstream sandbank of an island. Parisians would promenade here on Sundays, and in art history the isle is perhaps most familiar from Georges Seurat’s painting A Sunday on La Grande Jatte – 1884 (1884–86). But also the impressionists were active on this island, and Claude Monet set up his easel there one sunny spring day in 1878. He usually preferred the landscape further down by the idyllic Argenteuil, but now he had found a motif he wanted paint at La Grande Jatte. The painting shows the waterside promenade, with the green leaves of spring and an expanse of sky. On the right was the bank of Levallois, straight ahead the railway bridge toward Asnières (which Monet could make out through the trees), and in the very background the towering chimneys of the new gasworks at Clichy, whose black smoke blended with the white clouds. Monet created three similar versions of this motif, but the paintings were nonetheless not identical: for an impressionist such as Monet, it was the impression of the atmosphere and the splendid shifting of the light that was worth capturing, and this impression was in constant flux.
During a trip to Paris in 1919, Jens Thiis, the director of the National Gallery, picked out the painting at the art dealer Paul Rosenberg’s gallery. It was purchased by funds from the Friends of the National Gallery.
Text: Nils Messel
From "Highlights. Art from Antiquity to 1945", Nasjonalmuseet 2014, ISBN 978-82-8154-088-0