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Monet in Amsterdam

For Marlous, who loves old paintings

In 1871 and 1874, the famous French impressionist painter Claude Monet (1840-1926) visited Amsterdam. He was impressed by the clouds and the grey light, but was not happy with his own paintings, which -as this page shows- did not "catch" the Amsterdam light. Monet never exposed these works, which are still not very well-known; not even their names are recorded. Nor do we know much about his stay: except for a photograph and a couple of letters, the only evidence is the diary of an Amsterdam museum that he visited on 22 June 1871, the Trippenhuis. I once saw it, and found Monet's signature near that of a fisherman from the isolated isle of Urk, who, although a Dutchman, must have felt less at home in the city of Amsterdam than the painter from Paris.

The preceding picture shows one of the paintings Monet made, now in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and included in the Wilderstein Catalog as #399. The clouds and the blue sky are more reminiscent of southern France than of Holland. Note that the trees on the painting have lost their leaves, so it was made in the autumn, when the Amsterdam sky is usually hazy, as you can see on the photo to the left. Monet created something that was too sunny.  This painting was bought by the family of the American painter Mary Cassatt (1845-1926); Monet made a second copy, bought by a Rumanian collector named Belliot. The church, by the way, is the Zuiderkerk (southern church). Here you can see the church, the bridge, and the canal from the air, and this is where Monet stood. Except for a painting of a windmill near the river Amstel, this is the only one that was not made near the port of Amsterdam, which apparently fascinated the painter.

This painting (Wilderstein #301), shows the Westerdok (West Docklands). In the background, you can see the church known as De Posthoorn (all Catholic churches in Amsterdam have surnames, this means "posthorn"), which was, during Monet's stay im Amsterdam, still unfinished. The photo shows that two towers were added later. There are still houseboats, but that's all that has remained the same; the railroad has cut through the area painted by Monet, as you can see on this satellite photo: the church is at the lower edge, and Monet stood on the upper edge. The painting is now lost, but was once owned by the count and countess De Rasty, who also bought the next painting.

This painting of the Port of Amsterdam (Wilderstein #298) also illustrates something that has disappeared: as you see on the photo, there are justa a few ships today. Again, we know where Monet stood, looking to the north from the southern edge of this satellite photo, to the IJ. This painting, now in a private collection, is interesting because it shows how the artist was experimenting: he had prepared the canvas by painting it grey, which he simply left as it was, in the top right corner. 

This painting of the Montelbaanstoren and Peperbrug (Montauban Tower and Pepper Bridge), seen from the Rapenburgwal (Wilderstein #306) is now in the Shelburne Museum, to which it was donated by Lousine Waldron Elder, a friend of the already mentioned painter Mary Cassatt. The museum calls this painting The Drawbridge. I was able to reach the place where Monet stood, but two large house boats obstructed my view. The photo, however, shows that not much has changed. Perhaps I must return on a rainy day; I wonder how Monet made his painting, which clearly shows people with umbrellas.

The Kamperhoofd (Wilderstein #303) is a part of the fortifications of medieval Amsterdam. In Monet's days, it was a quiet part of the port, but today, a large road passes along it, and the station has cut it off from the IJ. A church now dominates the skyline. The houses have changed a bit, but if you count the windows, you can see that several things have remained the same, and you can deduce where Monet stood. You can also discern the Schreierstoren, one of the oldest towers of Amsterdam. This painting was bought by a banker named Ernest May, and is now in a private collection.


The standard catalog of paintings by Claude Monet was made by Daniel Wilderstein, Claude Monet. Biographie et Catalogue Raisonné (four volumes, 1974-1985; Lausanne). In 1986/1987, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam organized an exposition called Monet in Holland; the catalog contains more information on the impressionist's visit to Amsterdam and Zaandam.
© Jona Lendering for
Livius.Org, 2006
Revision: 12 April 2012
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