Impressionist Claude Monet was a gifted painter as well as a talented and attentive draughtsman. This pastel—a recent gift to the Museum—is an informal study of various elements of a harbor, replete with a variety of sailing vessels and the distinctive jetty and lighthouse in the port city of Honfleur. Born in Paris, Monet grew up in Le Havre on the Normandy coast. He was very loyal to this region, which served as a touchstone throughout his artistic career. He created a remarkable grouping of pastels of the harbors and countryside which demonstrate his personal connection as well as his keen observation of maritime life. To an untrained eye, these boats appear roughly the same, but scholars have identified them as belonging to traditional types that originated near Trouville and Villerville, which points to Monet’s careful study and knowledge of each individual boat.
This pastel allows the viewer a glimpse into the artist’s working practice, as it includes both summarily sketched boats as well more highly developed vessels. Monet and other Impressionist artists favored blue paper as a support. The color provided a middle ground for the artist, who would then build up highlights and lowlights. It also serves as a compositional feature in this sheet, serving as both sea and sky.
—Mary Weaver Chapin, Curator of Prints and Drawings
Claude Monet (French, 1840–1926). Honfleur, voiliers et phare (Honfleur, Sailboats, and Lighthouse), 1866–1867. Pastel on blue paper. Gift of Nani S. Warren, 2020.23.1