Vétheuil, on the river Seine, midway between Paris and Rouen, had only 622 inhabitants when Claude Monet moved there in April 1878. A farming community some ten kilometres from the nearest railway station, the town was noted principally for its thirteenth-century Gothic church of Notre-Dame. Vétheuil lay across the river from Lavacourt, another small village on the banks of the Seine. There was no bridge, and the two towns communicated by means of a local ferry service. Isolation would not have been a problem for Monet, who had brought his own houseboat when he moved to the area. Vétheuil was probably painted from this boat, which the artist used as a floating studio.
Throughout 1878 and 1879, Monet painted many views in and around Vétheuil, observing its various aspects across the changing months, as seasonal light brought differing effects to the town’s architecture and setting. Monet’s virtuoso manipulation of shimmering, iridescent hues imparts a summery, lyrical feel to this quintessentially Impressionist painting.
The artist has framed this and other views of his subject quite selectively, excluding from one of the busiest tradeways of western France all signs of heavy commercial river traffic. As a result, Vétheuil appears more peacefully rural than was actually the case.
Text by Dr Ted Gott from 19th century painting and sculpture in the international collections of the National Gallery of Victoria, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2003, p. 124.