This painting is amazing and had an extraordinary destiny. This is Impression, soleil levant painted by Monet in 1872. You can admire it in the Marmottan Monet Museum in Paris. It was first shown during the first impressionist exhibition in 1874 and actually gave its name to the artistic movement.
The artwork depicts a view of Le Havre’s harbor in northern France. The composition is characterized by the horizontal landscape and its three distinctive part. The top part is devoted to the sky while the two other parts depict the harbor and the sea. Everything is sketched, blurry, and boats don’t stick out of the sea. The farther away we look, the less obvious the marks are. Only the sun is clear and is reflected on the sea. This painting follows Turner’s art that Monet discovered while he was in exile in London during 1870-1871 (the Paris Commune was happening at that time). As in Turner’s art, the sun and the boats are there to help the viewers understand the scene. Monet didn’t want to follow the Académie rules of painting or the drawings so loved by Ingres.
According to Rewald, the impressionist name came from the critique of this painting by Louis Leroy in the Charivari. The critic wrote satirically: “Ah! There it is, there it is! he exclaimed in front of the number 98. I recognize the favorite of Papa Vincent! What does this canvas depict? Look in the booklet. IMPRESSION, Soleil levant. Impression. I was certain of it. I also told myself, since I am impressed there must be some impression in there… And what freedom, what ease in workmanship! The wall paper in the embryonic state is still more finished than this marine here!“
After the exhibition, the painting was bought by Hoschedé for 800 francs and then was completely forgotten by everyone. Later it was bought for 210 francs by Georges de Bellio who swore to Monet to never get rid of it. His daughter inherited it. The painting was never requested for an important exhibition celebrating impressionism, nor for the exhibition in honor of Monet in 1931. De Bellio’s daughter planned to give the painting to the Marmottan Monet Museum after her death. She died in 1958, but the painting had been part of the museum collection since 1940 because of World War II. It was a way to protect the painting from the Nazis.
Last year, there was an exhibition in honor of this painting in the museum, and for this occasion they did lots of research. With experts in archives, Le Havre’s harbor, and an astrophysicist from Texas, the curatorial team was able to find a specific date for the creation of the painting. According to the position of the sun and the tide, they concluded the painting was made on November 13, 1872 approximately 30 minutes after the rise of the sun. Their research resolved a long standing question: is this a rising sun or a setting sun?