Claude Monet (French, 1840–1926),
Small Country Farm at Bordighera (Un coin de ferme à Bordighera)
oil on canvas, 29 1/8 x 36 3/8 in., 73.98 x 92.4 cm
Museum purchase, Joslyn Endowment Fund, 1943.39
In January 1884 Monet set out alone for the Mediterranean village of Bordighera, just across the Franco-Italian border. Originally intending to stay only for three weeks, Monet became so absorbed in the challenges of capturing the brilliant hues of the lush landscape (so different from the cool, gray tonality of northern France) that he spent over two months there and produced forty paintings. The artist recorded his progress and frustrations in numerous letters to friends back in Paris: “These palms are driving me crazy; the motifs are extremely difficult to seize, to put on canvas; it’s so bushy everywhere, although delightful to the eye. . . . I would like to do orange and lemon trees silhouetted against the blue sea but cannot find them as I would like.”
Small Country Farm at Bordighera was probably painted in March and represents Monet’s finest achievement there. Years later he mentioned that it, along with one other painting of the sojourn, as a work with which he was especially satisfied. Monet used remarkably varied brushwork in the painting to create a wide range of optical effects and to organize his pictorial space, as the viewer’s eye is carried from the thick, bushy vegetation of the foreground to the hazy mountain peaks of the distance. Above all, the painting is remarkable for its bold handling of color and rainbowlike palette, which point away from the years of classic Impressionism to the color-saturated paintings of Monet’s final decades in Giverny.