By Thor A. Larsen
I just noted that the Feb. 21, 2012 New York Times article, “’The Scream’ Heads for the Auction Block” and the estimates for the selling price to reach $80 million. Unable to purchase this fine Munch painting, I am able to visit and enjoy a “free” Munch painting any day of the week at the Frances Loeb Art Center at Vassar College in the city of Poughkeepsie, N.Y. The beautiful work is Edvard Munch’s ‘The Seine at St. Cloud” which demonstrated the artist’s excellent impressionist style.
This work was a one of a series of works done by the artist of scenes of the river Seine as viewed from his window in his apartment in late 1889 and early 1890. Edvard Munch was in Paris studying art on a scholarship. Certainly the Impressionist movement in Paris had a direct effect on Edvard Munch in his work and several others he did of the Seine. In fact, this painting could perhaps been done by Claude Monet or the American artist Whistler, considering the style and subject. Reflecting on the evolution of Mr. Munch’s style, the impressionist period seems to ended shortly thereafter. Although this work and similar works of the river Seine were not very popular when the original owner of this work, Mrs. Blodgett, donated it to Vassar College in 1962, the values of these impressionist works increased significantly in value in recent years. “Vue de la’ Seine a Saint-Cloud,” a similar view done in full daylight realized $337,000 at auction at Christies in 2007.
On the surface, “The Seine at St. Cloud” looks like a pleasing, perhaps dreamy evening scene. However, as mentioned in the Loeb Art Center catalogue, “upon closer inspection, though, it is easy to discern the less-than-tranquil ambience where strong shadows cast by the moonlight project a slightly sinister quality.” Also, “the branches of the tree along the footpath droop in a manner suggestive of the sadness associated with such trees as willows.” Well, I do note that the season is either late autumn or winter and that may seem a bit sad, but, I suppose I must go back and study the work further.
We in the Hudson Valley are especially happy for this work to be residing in Vassar’s permanent collection because there are very few oil paintings by Munch in American museums. The museum is open seven days a week and admission is free, so I will be back to study “The Seine at St. Cloud” further.
Thor A. Larsen, Fishkill, NY, March 12, 2012, Norwegian American Weekly