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Record Image
Monet, Claude (French, b.1840, d.1926), Artist
La Débâcle
oil on canvas
540 x 650 mm stretcher size; 800 x 905 x 120 mm frame size
Collection of the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. Given 1982 by Mary, Dora and Esmond de Beer through the National Art Collections Fund, London.
During the intensely cold winter of 1879–1880, the Seine froze over. Claude Monet, who was living beside the river, was already skilled in capturing different light effects – Impression, Sunrise (1873), which gave its name to the Impressionist movement, is one such painting – and had also created groups of interrelated canvases. He therefore seized on the exceptional sights when the ice began to break up early in the morning of 5 January, to create a new series.
Within these fourteen works there are smaller clusters, each group exploring a single view: Dunedin’s La Débâcle (The Breakup of the Ice) belongs to one of them. The first in the relevant sequence (Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon) shows the river almost completely covered by ice floes; in the second (Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lille) the river is freer and a small rowboat has ventured from the bank; Dunedin’s painting is the third. By now, the heaps of ice in the foreground and middle distance have been reduced, there is more open water than in the preceding pictures and daylight is fading: the sky is filled with sunset pinks and violets.

on view in the exhibition

Hurahia ana kā Whetū : Unveiling the Stars
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