Monet spent most of the 1870s in the town of Argenteuil, which is on the Seine just to the north-west of Paris. During this period, leisure activities such as boating made the town increasingly popular with day-trippers from the capital. The exceptionally snowy winter of 1874-5 inspired Monet to paint 18 views of Argenteuil under the snow. Many of them, like this work, focus on the boulevard Saint-Denis where Monet was living.
The scene shows the boulevard running towards the Seine, looking away from the railway station. It is a relatively large work, which sacrifices details in favour of atmosphere. Its predominantly monochrome palette of blues and greys conveys to perfection the bleakness of an overcast winter's afternoon.
Leah Kharibian: If we take a closer look at Monet’s snow scene at Argenteuil, I’m really fascinated as to how you see this picture fitting in with the other works already in the National Gallery’s collection.
Chris Riopelle: Well, the winter of 1874–5, which was a famously snowy winter at Argenteuil to the west of Paris, where Monet was living, was a moment when he painted 18 snow scenes. This is the biggest of them all and one in which he captures that sense of an envelope of atmosphere that he’d been trying to achieve with his Impressionist pictures.
Leah Kharibian: And what about its tonality – I’m quite intrigued as to how you’re going to hang it, because this picture is almost monochrome, sort of icy blues and whites… it’s a very strong and as you say, large, picture, is it going to knock out everything else on the walls that you put next to it?
Chris Riopelle: It is a particularly bright picture. We have two other snow scenes, one by Sisley, that will hang by it; the other one is also by Monet of about four years later. In that snow scene, all the snow is pink, so it will set up a very interesting contrast.
From The National Gallery Podcast: Episode Twenty Seven, January 2009