Volume 20, Issue 1 | Spring 2021

Monet: Le Boulevard des Capucines en Carnival

by Joel Isaacson

After 150 years, since its opening in Paris in spring 1874, it seems that there is still work to do in sorting out the first impressionist exhibition and its impact on the subsequent history of the movement. The group, which entered the exhibition as a loose amalgam of mostly young artists under the heading of the Société anonyme des artistes peintres, sculpteurs, graveurs, etc., emerged, due to the responses of several reviewers, as the Impressionnistes. In his satiric review, critic Louis Leroy conjured with the word “impression” found in the title of Monet’s seascape Impression, soleil levant (Impression, sunrise; Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris), and he and the critics Jules-Antoine Castagnary and Philippe Burty used the word Impressionnistes in the headings of their reviews. Other critics, favorably disposed to the artists, examined the term and its usefulness for gauging the work entered by Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, and the plein-airistes, whose paintings principally attracted their attention. Among them, Castagnary endorsed the word in the body of his review and came up with the classic definition: “They are impressionists in the sense that they render not the landscape but the sensation produced by the landscape.” He added, “the word has already passed into their language: it’s not landscape, it’s impression that is printed in the catalogue for M. Monet’s Soleil levant.”‍[1]

figure 1
Fig. 1, Claude Monet, Le Boulevard des Capucines, 1874. Oil on canvas. The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow. Artwork in the public domain; available from: The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts.

The painting Impression, soleil levant had but a brief notoriety in 1874, despite Leroy’s comic turn. The work failed to invite critical discussion, receiving only four mentions by other critics during the month-long run of the show. Another of Monet’s paintings, however, did attract comments by several reviewers, including Leroy, and as a result has had a greater impact on the critical and art historical understanding of the movement. Number ninety-seven in the catalogue, Boulevard des Capucines (fig. 1) took the location of the exhibition itself, at 35, boulevard des Capucines—the former studio of the photographer Félix Nadar—as its subject as well as its title. The painting received several discerning notices by some of the more advanced critics during the run of the exhibition, although its subsequent history has been subject to a degree of confusion and misidentification.

The canvas entered the collection of the Parisian opera singer and collector J.-B. Faure sometime before 1883, at which date it was included in a solo show of Monet’s work at the Durand-Ruel gallery, then shown once again at the major Monet-Rodin exhibition in 1889. It was still in Faure’s possession in 1906, when Durand-Ruel acquired it from a large exhibition of works from Faure’s collection and then sold it the following year to the avant-garde Russian collector Ivan Morosov. After the October Revolution the painting entered Soviet state collections and has been part of what is now the Pushkin Museum in Moscow since 1948.

Critical Response

Never the extraordinary animation of the public street, the crowd swarming on the sidewalks, the carriages on the pavement, and the boulevard’s trees waving in the dust and light—never has movement’s elusive, fugitive, instantaneous quality been captured and fixed in all its tremendous fluidity as it has in this extraordinary, marvelous sketch.

- E. Chesneau, Paris-Journal, May 7, 1874

The critic Ernest Chesneau, when he came across Monet’s Boulevard des Capucines at the first impressionist exhibition, felt that the artist had found the touch that precisely rendered life—life filled with movement and the shifting, changing aspect of people and carriages as they circulated on the broad sidewalks and plied the thoroughfares in the center of the city.‍[2]

His observations were shared, if less fully developed, by other critics who preceded him. Writing two days after the opening on April 15, Ernest d’Hervilly extolled in Le Rappel Monet’s remarkable “view of the sunlit boulevard where the vibrations and ever changing colors of Parisian life are rendered with infinite grace and spirit.”‍[3] Three days later, in the same journal, Jean Prouvaire found Monet’s painting “so tumultuous, so multi-colored that the Boulevard des Italiens [sic] itself . . . would be astonished by its sparkle and intensity.”‍[4]

There is little doubt, as we look at Monet’s painting, that carriages move through the broad boulevard and the trees sway, but do the people move? Some of them seem to, no doubt, but not all of them. Monet had earlier developed a shorthand for depicting movement—of water, of course, but also of people, notably in 1867 in his painting Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois (Nationalgalerie, Berlin) and, most effectively, in the Jardin de l’Infante (Oberlin College, Oberlin), both viewed from a vantage point on the east balcony of the Louvre. Now, in 1874, he was being lauded for his ability to capture once again with a technique of repeated black brush strokes a sense of the city in flux. But a close scrutiny of the painting shown at Nadar’s former showroom reveals that most of the figures along the shaded sidewalk are standing still. The sign for movement is also the sign for standing or stillness.

figure 2
Fig. 2, Claude Monet, Le Boulevard des Capucines, 1874. Oil on canvas. The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City. Artwork in the public domain; available from: Wikimedia Commons.

Chesneau’s enthusiastic response to the picture was brilliant, and I congratulate him at this great distance in time for his positive reading and endorsement of the painting. I wonder, though, whether his account would have been the same if Monet had sent in its companion piece—the version of the Boulevard des Capucines now in the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City, Missouri (fig. 2)—rather than the one he actually exhibited, the Moscow canvas.‍[5]

Moscow and Kansas City

At some point prior to the exhibition, returning to a practice he had begun in the previous decade, Monet painted two canvases depicting the angled view of the boulevard as seen from a window balcony at Nadar’s showroom. The two pictures form a pair: they are the same size, but—differentiated by orientation, weather, light, and palette—they reveal sharply contrasting personalities. The Kansas City painting, held vertically, depicts an overcast day in winter. Its clarity and even tonality, its delicacy of stroke—seen in the treatment of the young trees and the carriages along the boulevard—is quite distinct from the thick paint application and strong light-dark division of the horizontally oriented Moscow composition.

In light of these differences, the question persists: If Chesneau had seen the Kansas City version at the impressionist show, would his response have been the same? Would he have realized that the broad pavement below the windows of Nadar’s studio was not filled with Parisians moving quickly along the sidewalk but was, in fact, the site of a popular street performance, with a palisade of people standing round in close formation to watch the event? Monet’s depiction of the setting is quite specific. Three sides of the palisade are clearly drawn: running from Monet’s signature at the bottom right corner, the side closest to us angles at an upward slant toward the left to meet the advertising column at the curb, then runs parallel to the line of slender tree trunks, only to angle back on a downward slant toward the right, where, pictorially, it meets the cluster of pink balloons (the brightest color note in the painting), creating a roughly trapezoidal area in which the performance takes place.

Within the physical setting (fig. 3), Monet gives the event a touch of narrative. He seems to describe the point at which the program has just ended and the neat formation of onlookers is beginning to break up. That is suggested by gaps in the foreground arm of the palisade and by the activity Monet presents there. In the center of that rank, we see a clutch of figures, including a woman in a dark red coat; addressing them, a man leans slightly forward, as if in the act of “passing the hat.” Behind him, to our right, are two or three performers, including a small woman dressed in pink. In the center of the clearing is a small, slightly cursive costumed figure in gray and black, wearing what looks like an upward-tilting clown’s hat. He appears to shimmy as he approaches a somewhat outsized couple advancing through the clearing, determined to have nothing to do with the clown’s solicitation. They move briskly forward, their dry-brushed legs suggesting swifter movement than for almost any other identifiable figures within the painting.

figure 3
Fig. 3, Detail of Claude Monet, Le Boulevard des Capucines, 1874. Oil on canvas. The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City. Artwork in the public domain; available from: Wikimedia Commons.
figure 4
Fig. 4, Detail of Claude Monet, Le Boulevard des Capucines, 1874. Oil on canvas. The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow. Artwork in the public domain; available from: The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts.

If we return to the Moscow canvas, we find similar groupings of pedestrians in loosely geometric formations. But on the now-shaded sidewalk, the formations are more irregular and the brushwork more varied (fig. 4); many of the figures are stroked in blue among the dominant black, the paint is thicker and individual figures are built up by composite strokes. The kind of specificity we see in Kansas City tends to be absorbed or overridden by the Moscow painting’s agitated, impasted, challenging description of a crowded thoroughfare divided by the strong contrast of light and shadow. Legibility is sacrificed to an overall sense of clamorous activity.

That is the painting that Chesneau admired when he encountered it on the walls of the exhibition. But for all his praise of the “extraordinary animation” of the people on the crowded sidewalk, there is no compelling sign of greater activity than among the pedestrians in the Kansas City painting. What the Moscow version provides is a similar, albeit more ragged depiction of people attending a street performance—or, indeed, two adjacent performances, one in the immediate foreground, the second in the clearing just beyond, where we see again a cluster of balloons, now less distinguishable as such, now more red than pink.

In the more variegated milieu of the Moscow version, a variety of figures, costumes, and attitudes rewards close inspection. Along the bottom edge of the picture, some of the people are dressed more colorfully and made to stand out, individuated here and there in their stance or degree of mobility. It is surprising to me how much personality Monet imparts to his figures, given the evident rapid manipulations of his brush.

Chesneau also wrote of the movement of the carriages in the broad avenue, with “trees waving in the dust and light,” and of the “fugitive, instantaneous quality” that Monet had “captured and fixed in all its tremendous fluidity.”‍[6] He was right, of course. In the sun-lit area of the street, the riotous play of color, the light-shot vertical branches of the center trees, and the sinuous dark branches injected into the horizontal composition at left keep the picture moving before our eyes. Nothing seems to stand still and yet, despite the painting’s thick, assertive facture, we find that, as with the pedestrians in the Kansas City version, Monet does not differentiate between movement and stasis: although most of the vehicles ranged along the curb are lost in a welter of brushstrokes, the one or two parked in the center foreground seem indistinguishable in treatment from those that course the boulevard.

In the Moscow painting, Monet agitates the surface and knits things together in a way that distinguishes it from its pendant in Kansas City. In the latter, he presents to the viewer a perspective tunnel; the center row of slender trees establishes a strong orthogonal plane directed toward the right distance. The roadway and the sidewalk in effect become two separate lanes of traffic, except that, on the broad stretch of pavement in front of Nadar’s building, movement is contained, as a curious group of pedestrians halt their wandering activity to seek a bit of entertainment from a group of itinerant actors. The Moscow painting, by contrast, in its horizontal format, is more immediate, more close up than the relatively distancing view presented by its companion. It is vibrant in contrast to Kansas City’s austerity. Kansas City is not likely to have provoked the kinetic response that Chesneau and his like-minded colleagues experienced when they first saw the painting.

A Question of Date

The Moscow version is signed and dated “Claude Monet 73” at the bottom of the canvas, and it has generally been taken as having been done in the late fall of 1873, around the same time as the Kansas City painting, which seems to depict a dusting of snow on the pavement. The wintry day in the latter and the 1873 date on the former has led to placing both pictures at the very end of that year. The date accords well with Monet’s activities at the time.

figure 5
Fig. 5, Félix Nadar, Façade of Nadar’s studio, 35, Boulevard des Capucines, ca. 1861. Albumen print from a collodion glass negative. Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris. Image in the public domain; available from: Bibliothèque Nationale de France, gallica.bnf.fr.

During November and December, while living in nearby Argenteuil, he made frequent trips to the capital trying to recruit artists for the projected group exhibition, which was being planned for the spring of 1874. He was also involved with drawing up the final rules for the exhibition and in securing the site at which it would be held. On December 27, 1873, the official incorporation of the group under the heading Société anonyme was announced and presumably the venue (fig. 5), the former studio of Nadar at 35, boulevard des Capucines, secured. Accordingly, we can take it that by that date all arrangements had been made and an opening date of April 15, 1874, was set.

Mission having been accomplished, Monet traveled to Le Havre for the holidays and was still there more than a month later, actively at work on views of the harbor, as indicated by a letter from Eugène Boudin to Ferdinand Martin dated February 4, 1874.‍[7] But we have no knowledge of Monet’s activities from then until April 1, when he sent a letter to Manet from his home in Argenteuil. That gap in time led Daniel Wildenstein in his catalogue raisonné to propose a painting trip to Amsterdam in order to account for a dozen Monet views of that city, including two snow scenes, all of which are undated and undocumented. Wildenstein offered the 1874 date largely on stylistic grounds in comparison with other paintings from around that time. In view of the forthcoming exhibition of the group, however, it would seem an unusual moment for Monet to have absented himself from Paris and Argenteuil with no communication with his friends. Charles Stuckey, in his detailed chronology for the 1995 Monet exhibition in Chicago, and Ronald Pickvance, in the 1987 Rijksmuseum exhibition catalogue Monet in Holland, both suggest that the previous year, 1873, should remain a candidate for the date of Monet’s trip.

Indeed, our knowledge of Monet’s activities allows for the possibility of a painting campaign in Holland in the early months of 1873. Monet was probably in Paris on January 18, when Durand-Ruel opened a Whistler exhibition at his gallery. A trip to Le Havre shortly after, at which time he may have painted three views of the port, including the notorious Impression, soleil levant, may have followed.‍[8] Wildenstein’s conjectural date for that picture, possibly as late as April 1873, has recently been questioned, however, in the detailed study by Donald W. Olson in the catalogue Monet’s Impression Sunrise: The Biography of a Painting (Musée Marmottan, Paris, 2014). Olson believes Wildenstein’s date to be too late to accord with the meteorological conditions indicated in the painting, but suggests that a slightly earlier date in late January, the twenty-fifth or twenty-sixth, would be acceptable.‍[9]

There is no record of Monet’s whereabouts from February to late April 1873, at which point we find a letter dated April 22 from Argenteuil, in which Monet asks Pissarro to come to lunch to discuss the proposed exhibition, still a year away. Thus, a period in the early months of 1873 may provide a better opportunity for placing Monet’s “secret” trip to Amsterdam, with its substantial yield of twelve oil paintings, all undated and undocumented.

If we accept that premise, we may return to early 1874 and ask: If Monet was not away in Holland, as Wildenstein’s proposal would have it, where was he and what was he doing in the weeks leading up to the opening of the group exhibition on April 15? It is not difficult to imagine that he was caught up with continuing tasks attendant upon the event, but no written document exists to confirm that proposition. We do have a possible record, however, provided by the two paintings of the boulevard des Capucines, sited at the very place where the exhibition was to take place.

There is reason to ask just when these paintings were executed. As indicated above, the two works have been generally accepted as stemming from late in the previous year, 1873, a placement seemingly established by the signature and date on the Moscow version. But should the date on the painting be accepted at face value? A close examination of the signature and the numerals, “73,” suggests that the date may have been added later. Principally, the paint used for the date appears to be different from that for the signature. The numerals are too small and awkwardly placed to the right, above the line of the signature, and also seem to lack a degree of assertiveness in contrast with the signature itself. Based on those observations, the reliability of the date 1873 is opened to question.


In his foundational biography of Monet, published in 1922, while the artist was still alive, Gustave Geffroy titled the Moscow painting Le Boulevard des Capucines en carnaval (Boulevard des Capucines during carnival), accepting the date 1873.‍[10] In his text, he provides a lively characterization of the painting as marked by alacrity and speed of execution. Geffroy knew the painting well. He had written a favorable notice about it in 1883, when it was exhibited at Durand-Ruel’s gallery in Paris, prompting a letter of thanks from the artist. The two men then met in 1886, when Monet was working on Belle-Ile, after which they became life-long friends. During their years of close association, Geffroy surely had come to know the work as a painting of Carnival, but his acceptance of the year as 1873 suggests that the date had already been applied to the canvas before he first saw it in 1883.

Carnival season arrives each year in early January, starting the day after Epiphany and extending for several weeks to the beginning of Lent. In nineteenth-century France, the last three days before Ash Wednesday—the jours de gras—were designated for popular celebrations, including feasting, dancing, masked balls, and parades. The boulevard des Capucines in the center of Paris was the traditional site for grand processions, such as the Promenade des masques (Walk of masks), usually held on Mardi Gras, the day before Lent began.

The year 1874 was propitious for these events, as the celebrations of the previous two years, following the bitter defeat of the Franco-Prussian War and the bloody suppression of the Commune in 1871, had been relatively thin affairs. In 1874, Mardi Gras took place on February 17. Afterwards, La Vie parisienne (Parisian life) assessed the events in a celebratory way, announcing on March 7 that the hotels, many of which had been closed for three years, were flourishing and that more than a thousand dances had been held throughout the city during the last days of festivities. Le Monde illustré (The world, illustrated), on February 21, took a different tack, regretting that the celebrations had lost their bourgeois and popular character and had become aristocratic. It was that aspect of the holiday activities that Monet was able to witness as he looked down at the affluent boulevard des Capucines from the very spot where his group’s exhibition was scheduled to take place.

From the vantage point of an upper-floor window balcony at Nadar’s studio, he could observe during the last days of Carnival the crush of carriages in the broad avenue with red streamers attached to the cabs, the advertising column at the curb seeming almost to glow with multicolored posters, and the cluster of balloons located mid-sidewalk—not pink now, but red, the color of Carnival—at the site of a street performance. These are some of the key elements that he elected to capture in his exhibition painting. Other details, seen in the foreground—perhaps appealing to the youthful caricaturist in Monet—further capture the event: there we can find a remnant, perhaps, of the Promenade des masques in several figures in the immediate foreground, notably the tall woman in blue and her smaller companion in black, both wearing red masks and lolling their way through the foreground clearing.

Monet may have thought of the painting as establishing his presence, as a witness to the events as they unfolded on the Carnaval boulevard, and, conceivably, he may have come to think of it as an advertisement for the exhibition that was soon to take place. In any case, there would seem to be no doubt that the painting and the exhibition in which it was hung were firmly linked; of his two paintings of the boulevard, only the Moscow version could have been chosen for the exhibition.


It is true that I have left to the end the reservations Chesneau expressed in his review, when he moved in closer to the painting, at which point the very sketch-like, rapidly brushed strokes that, when viewed at a distance, had attracted him to the picture in the first place, began to look like “a chaos of unreadable palette scrapings” (un chaos de raclures de palette indéchiffrable).‍[11] Chesneau went further: in his penultimate sentence—and this accords with the routinized criticism of impressionist picture making throughout the last decades of the nineteenth century—he wrote that Monet still must learn how to turn “the sketch into a finished work” (l’esquisse en oeuvre faite). That was not his final word, however. Quickly returning to his initial, eager attraction to the “sketch,” he added, “But what a clarion call for those who have a ready ear, and how it will carry far into the future!” (Mais quel coup de clairon pour ceux qui ont l’oreille subtile et comme il porte loin dans l’avenir!).


The Question of the Rue Daunou

The large building depicted in the center of the Moscow painting, on the sun-lit side of the boulevard, is the Grand Hotel. To its left and overlapping it is the building then occupied by the Hotel Scribe. By means of this overlap and a subtle shift in color, Monet acknowledges the existence of the cross street, rue Scribe, which separates the two buildings.

On the near, shaded side of the boulevard, however, there is no acknowledgment of the street, the rue Daunou, which meets the boulevard further along from number 35, Nadar’s former studio. Given the brightness of the day and the direction of the sun, we should expect to see a shaft of light from the rue Daunou entering the boulevard from the right. The shade of the sidewalk is unbroken, however, until we reach the whitish horizontal path of activity just over half way up the canvas at the level of the elbow of the principal top-hatted observer perched at the window balcony of the Nadar building. That path of light, animated with white and orange, suggests perhaps a parade or demonstration entering the boulevard from the right. Might that be the rue Daunou?

In the past I have always thought, as have most observers, that this burst of light was from the place de l’Opéra. But 35, boulevard des Capucines, is not located at the corner of the rue Daunou, as it is frequently described. It is one building west of the corner, toward the Madeleine. The unbroken stretch of gray sidewalk leading back from Nadar’s location to the bright, horizontal path of light just beyond, is consistent with what Monet would have had before him when he looked out from his vantage above the street at number 35. That would seem to be the case as well in the Kansas City painting, where we see a similar horizontal of light at the level of the top-hatted observers and where we see again across the boulevard the brief gray bulk of the Hotel Scribe overlapping the Grand Hotel and thus acknowledging the presence of the rue Scribe between them.


NB, The Pushkin’s Boulevard des Capucines is a tough painting, hard to reach. The writings of several people have helped me along the way. Robert Herbert, Impressionism (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1991) and Virginia Spate, Claude Monet: Life and Work (New York: Rizzoli, 1992) have grappled with the painting in searching ways. Richard Shiff has presented a stimulating discussion of Monet’s touch and its relation to the effect of movement in the Kansas City painting in “Paraph Painter,” in Monet: The Early Years, ed. George Shackelford, exh. cat. (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2016). Jane Mayo Roos, Early Impressionism and the French State (1866–1874) (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1996) has provided a rich, probing analysis of the critical reaction to the First Exhibition, and Paul Tucker has offered thoroughgoing discussions of the political and social history of the early 1870s when the venture took place. Ian Kennedy, at the time a curator at the Nelson-Atkins Museum, has offered a rich comparison of the two Boulevard paintings and firmly, if reluctantly, named the Moscow canvas as the one shown in 1874 (Apollo Magazine, March 2007). I, and other historians I am sure, have been immeasurably helped by the work of Ruth Berson, whose two-volume documentation of the eight impressionist exhibitions has proved to be an invaluable source: The New Painting: Impressionism 1874–1886 (San Francisco: Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 1989). More generally, I want to acknowledge the contribution of several art historians whose writings have been helpful and challenging as I worked on this project: Steven Levine, Charles Stuckey, and the late Richard Brettell, Andrew Forge, and John House. I would also like to thank Marc Gerstein and David O’Brien for their helpful contributions to the final form of the manuscript.


[1] “Ils sont impressionnistes en ce sens qu’ils rendent non le paysage, mais la sensation produite par le paysage. Le mot même est passé dans leur langue: ce n’est pas paysage, c’est impression que s’appelle au catalogue le Soleil levant de M. Monet.” Emphasis in the original. All translations are by the author unless otherwise indicated. Jules-Antoine Castagnary, “L’Exposition du boulevard des Capucines: Les Impressionnistes,” Le Siècle, April 29, 1874, 3; repr. in Berson, The New Painting, 1:17.

[2] Epigraph: “Jamais l’animation prodigieuse de la voie publique, le fourmillement de la foule sur l’asphalte et des voitures sur la chaussée, l’agitation des arbres du boulevard dans la poussière et la lumière; jamais l’insaisissable, le fugitif, l’instantané du mouvement n’a été saisi et fixé dans sa prodigieuse fluidité, comme il l’est dans cette extraordinaire, dans cette merveilleuse ébauche.” E. Chesneau, “A côté du Salon: II. Le Plein Air: Exposition du boulevard des Capucines,” Paris- Journal, May 7, 1874, 2; repr. in Berson, The New Painting, 1:18; trans. The New Painting: Impressionism 1874–1886, exh. cat. (San Francisco: The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 1986), 130.

[3] “M. Monet, qui a une vue du boulevard ensoleillé où la trépidation et la kaleidoscopie de la vie parisienne sont rendus avec infiniment de grâce et d’esprit.” Ernest d’Hervilly, “L’Exposition du boulevard des Capucines,” Le Rappel, April 17, 1874, 2; repr. in Berson, The New Painting, 1:24.

[4] “. . . il est si tumultueux, si multicolore, que le boulevard des Italiens [sic] lui-même, en le considérant, serait étonné de son propre éclat et de son propre tumulte.” Jean Prouvaire, “L’Exposition du boulevard des Capucines,” Le Rappel, April 20, 1874, 2; repr. in Berson, The New Painting, 1:35.

[5] There has been confusion in the long literature on the exhibition as to which of Monet’s two pictures was actually shown, although the Moscow version, with its “boulevard ensoleillé,” as d’Hervilly described it (n. 3), is now all but universally recognized as the one that elicited Chesneau’s enthusiastic response. The issue was reliably resolved only in 1974, when Daniel Wildenstein cited the Moscow canvas in the first volume of his catalogue raisonné. Nonetheless, uncertainty has continued to follow the paintings in subsequent years. See, for example, Berson, The New Painting, 2:9, where both the Kansas City (listed first along with citations for the criticism) and Moscow versions are given as candidates for number ninety-seven. See also, for a more recent publication, Dominique Lobstein, “Claude Monet and Impressionism and the Critics of the Exhibition of 1874,” in Monet’s Impression Sunrise: The Biography of a Painting, exh. cat. (Paris: Musée Marmottan, 2014), 106. Lobstein refers to the critical attention given to Monet’s “Boulevard des Capucines . . . which none of the critics is able to identify.” Nevertheless, on p. 108 the Kansas City painting is given a full-page illustration. A possible reason for this uncertainty is that the Kansas City painting has been frequently exhibited and reproduced in loan exhibition catalogues and monographs on Monet in the United States, Europe, and elsewhere. The Moscow canvas has remained in Russia ever since it was purchased by Ivan Morosov in 1907, entering the Second State Museum of Modern Western Art in Moscow after the October Revolution, and has remained there, in the renamed Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, ever since. For those outside Russia, the experience of the actual canvas has therefore been limited to Monet specialists and other visitors who made the trip to Moscow during the Soviet years, greater access opening up gradually only after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989. In recent years, the painting has been cleaned and made more widely available through high-definition digital photography and loans to institutions outside of Russia. (See the catalogue of the Monet and Architecture show held at the National Gallery, London, 2018, and the Claude Monet: A Floating World catalogue, Albertina, Vienna, 2018). This aspect of the paintings’ history is of the greatest importance, because the two paintings, although clearly produced as companion pieces, offer vastly different visual and sensory experiences. The question asks itself: Would the view of impressionism’s character, aims, and achievements have been altered in any significant way if the Kansas City version had been the one Monet chose to include in the first group exhibition? Would Chesneau or another critic have noticed, given the clarity of the Kansas City composition, that the figures didn’t actually move or that the repeated black strokes employed for the pedestrians described stasis rather than motion? The question is worth posing in that it was the response to the Boulevard des Capucines, rather than Impression, soleil levant, that set the tone for the major part of the criticism of impressionism that emerged from the First Exhibition. Impressionism is, in one reading, Chesneau’s impressionism. Might it have been different?

[6] Chesneau, “A côté du Salon.”

[7] See Géraldine Lefebvre, “Impression, Sunrise in the Port of Le Havre,” in Monet’s Impression Sunrise, 76, 79n43.

[8] Although the canvas Impression, soleil levant carries the date 1872 at bottom left, Daniel Wildenstein redated it to 1873 in volume one of his catalogue raisonné Claude Monet, tome 1 (Paris: Bibliothèque des Arts, 1974), 226–27. See also Joel Isaacson, Observation and Reflection: Claude Monet (Oxford: Phaidon, 1978), 21, 204–5.

[9] Donald W. Olson, “Dating Impression, Sunrise,” in Monet’s Impression Sunrise, 80–105, esp. 94–104. Based on the evidence of the painting, the altitude of the sun, weather conditions in Le Havre on a given day, etc., Olson, a physicist, posits three possible occasions in both 1872 and 1873, when Monet would have had the atmospheric conditions he depicts: two days in January and two in November 1872, and the two in late January 1873, which would, I believe, confirm the year 1873 as the correct date for the painting. Olson’s view is seconded by Géraldine Lefebvre, curator, Musée d’Art Moderne André Malraux, Le Havre, in the same catalogue, Monet’s Impression Sunrise, 72–73, although she offers a caveat about Monet’s itinerary.

[10] Gustave Geffroy, Claude Monet: Sa vie, son œuvre (Paris: G. Crès, 1922), 263. The appearance of carnaval in the painting’s title has all but disappeared in art-historical citations and discussions of the painting since Geffroy’s book was published. It has been mentioned occasionally in Russian texts, but illustrations of the painting and the association with Carnival are found readily on Wikipedia; see the French and English entries for “Carnaval de Paris,” Wikipedia (French), https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carnaval_de_Paris; and “Paris Carnival,” Wikipedia (English), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paris_Carnival.

[11] Chesneau, “A côté du Salon.”