The Bridge at Bougival
oil on canvas
25 3/4 x 36 3/8 in. (65 x 92 cm)
Claude Monet’s The Seine at Bougival
offers an impressionistic view across a road bridge in France. (The painting is also known as The Bridge at Bougival
or Bridge over the Seine [Le Pont de Bougival or Pont sur la Seine]
.) Several people traverse the bridge, including a woman and child. Poplar trees flank their path. The river is visible at the left; a small town lies on the other side of the water. Clouds cross the blue sky, casting dappled shadows below.
Context and Analysis
In 1869, Monet moved with his future wife and their son to a house near Bougival, a small but fashionable town on the Seine that had become a favorite gathering place for artists. Bougival could be easily reached from the station at Chatou, about fifteen minutes from Paris by train. Monet suggests the appeal of this setting for the tired urban crowds of Paris by emphasizing its comparatively rural nature, rather than its congested—if still picturesque—cafés and inns. The Seine at Bougival
depicts the foot of the road bridge opposite the town, built in 1858 to connect the left bank of the Seine to the Île de Croissy. This unconventional viewpoint and the emerging Impressionist style make this one of Monet’s most important early works.
Monet’s arrival at Bougival signaled a new era in his art, in which outdoors, or plein-air
, painting took precedence and the artist’s keen interest in the transformative effects of natural light were exhaustively explored. This was a significant time for the artist personally as well. Having been rejected by the Paris Salon, Monet found himself destitute and near starving. He relied on the generosity of his neighbor and fellow painter, Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841–1919), for his most basic needs—bread and paint.
The pictures Monet produced during this period reflect none of this private pain. Scenes of the river and of illusionistic roads or pathways extending into the center of the composition—motifs that would become fixtures of the artist’s work in subsequent years—are infused with both freshness and a self-assured calm. Though few of these works found immediate buyers, The Seine at Bougival
sold within a few months of its completion. It was purchased for 50 francs—plus a small painting by Paul Cézanne (1839–1906).
The subdued palette of this painting, a function of late-afternoon light and the arrival of fall, unifies the composition and also suggests the lingering effects of the realist Barbizon school of French landscape painting. The chosen perspective demonstrates Monet’s sense of belonging at this site: it is the viewpoint of another pedestrian, following behind the inexplicit figures of his mistress and child. Their bodies, like all the features of the composition, are built up from short, broken brushstrokes that transform the canvas into a flickering surface of light and shadow. The sense of depth that Monet achieves in spite of this Impressionist shimmer testifies to his facility as a draftsman; the painting has all the underlying structure and ordered clarity of a classical landscape of the 1600s by Claude Lorrain or Nicolas Poussin.
Monet’s introduction to plein-air
landscape painting was through the Barbizon school, and in particular the artist Eugène Boudin (1824–1898). Several examples of this school are included in the Currier’s permanent collection (Currier, 1991.11
, and 1949.7
). Monet’s scientific explorations of color and light may be compared with those of John Constable and the contemporary artist Michael Mazur, as well as with paintings of the American Luminist school, produced at approximately this same time (Currier, 1949.8
). The Currier collection also includes outstanding examples of American Impressionism (Currier, 1945.4.1
Written by Emily M. Weeks, Ph.D.
Clark T. J. “The Environs of Paris.” In Critical Readings in Impressionism and Post-Impressionism
, ed. Mary Tompkins Lewis. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007, 101–45.
Dunn, Roger. “The Seine at Bougival by Claude Monet.” Currier Gallery of Art Bulletin (Spring 1987): 2–16.
Herbert, Robert L. Impressionism: Art, Leisure, and Parisian Society
. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988.
“La Seine at Bougival.” Currier Gallery of Art Bulletin
Seitz, William C. Claude Monet
. New York: Abrams, .
Skeggs, Douglas. River of Light: Monet’s Impressions of the Seine
. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1987.
1949 Currier Gallery of Art, Manchester, NH, "Monet and the Beginnings of Impressionism." Oct. 8 - Nov. 6, cat. no. 40.
1952 Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, "Six Centuries of Landscape." Mar. 7 - April 13, no. 52.
1954 Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, MA, "Variations... Three Centuries of Painting." Jan. 8 - Feb. 15.
1954 Department of Art, Colby College, Waterville, ME, "An Exhibition of French Painting." April 6 - 27.
1955 Musee de L'Orangerie, Paris, France, "De David a Toulous-Lautrec." April 20 - July 5.
1957 "Claude Monet." Organized by Minneapolis Institute of Fine Arts. Traveled to: Minneapolis Institute of Fine Arts, Minneapolis, MN, Nov. 1 - Dec. 1; City Art Museum of St. Louis, St. Louis, MO, Sept. 25 - Oct. 22.
1960 "Claude Monet: Seasons and Moments." Organized by the Museum of Modern Art. Traveled to: Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, Mar. 7 - May 15; Los Angeles County Museum, Los Angeles, CA, June 14 - Aug. 7.
1962 Hopkins Center for the Arts, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH, "Impressionism 1865-1885." Nov. 8 - Dec. 8.
1972 Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA, "Painting, Sculpture and Decorative Arts from the Currier Gallery of Art, Manchester, New Hampshire." May 14 - June 20.
1975 Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL, "Paintings by Monet." Mar. 15 - May 11.
1979 Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, MA, "Small Gallery on a Large Scale." June 16 - July 29.
1984-1985 "A Day in the Country: Impressionism and the French Landscape." Organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Traveled to: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA, June 28 - Sept. 16, 1984; Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL, Oct. 23, 1984 - Jan. 6, 1985; Galleries Nationales d'Exposition du Grand Palais, Pairs, France, Feb. 8 - April 22, 1985.
1986 Bowdoin College Art Museum, Brunswick, ME, "Masterpieces from the Currier Gallery of Art." Sept. 11 - Nov. 2.
1991-1992 "Corot to Monet, The Rise of Landscape Painting in France." Organized by the Currier Gallery of Art. Traveled to: Currier Gallery of Art, Manchester, NH, Jan. 29 - April 28, 1991; IBM Gallery of Science and Art, New York, NY, July 30 - Sept. 28, 1991; Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, TX, Nov. 10, 1991 - Jan. 5, 1992.
1994 Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Paris, "Impressionisme: Les Origines 1859-1869." April 23 - Aug. 8.
1994-1995 Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York, "Origins of Impressionism." Sept. 27, 1994 - Jan. 8, 1995.
1996 Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL, "Claude Monet: 1840-1926." July 14 - Nov. 26.
1996-1997 Currier Gallery of Art, Manchester, NH, "Monet at the Currier." Dec. 22, 1996 - April 7, 1997.
2006 Portland Museum of Art, Portland, ME, "La vie moderne: Impressionist Views of Modern Life." June 23 - Oct. 15.
2006-2007 Portland Museum of Art, Portland, ME, "Masterpieces from the Currier Museum of Art." Oct. 2006 - Oct. 1, 2007.
2014-2015 Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX, "Monet on the Seine: Impressions of a River." Oct. 26, 2014- Jan.29, 2015.
2016-2017 Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, TX. "Monet: The Early Years" Oct. 16, 2016-Jan. 29, 2017; Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Feb. 25 - May 29, 2017.
2017 Currier Museum of Art. "Monet: Pathways to Impressionism" July 1- Nov. 13.
Firnun Martin, ca. 1870
Hadengue-Sandras, Paris, France, 1880
Bernheim-Jeune Galerie, Paris, France, 1910
Private Collection, 1910-1948
Rosenberg and Stiebel Gallery, New York, NY, 1948
Purchased by Currier Gallery of Art, 1949