Monet?, “Self-Portrait in his Atelier”, 1884In an earlier post [Is She or Isn’t She] I discussed whether or not a drawing attributed to Monet was actually by him. I thought that the drawing was by the minor Impressionist artist Helleu. Recently in an article in The Art Newspaper, “Monet’s favorite portrait of himself – but it is not by him,” Martin Bailey posits that the portrait that for years was thought to be a self-portrait by Monet is not by the artist at all, but by an unknown artist. And who are the likely suspects? As with the alleged Monet drawing, the name of John Singer Sargent, among others, is being circulated.
But here is the twist that interests me. Until recently, the painting was in the hands of Paulette Howard-Johnson, the daughter of Paul HELLEU! She died last year at the age of 104, and was the last person to have known Monet. She remembers seeing the painting in his bedroom at Giverny the last time she and her father visited Monet in 1925. She believed that Monet told her the painting was by Sargent. Why then, had Wildenstein, the author of Monet’s catalog raisonné, have it attributed to Monet. In the 1979 edition of the catalog, it was attributed to John Singer Sargent. In the 1994 edition, once the painting was owned by Wildenstein, it appeared as an authenticated Monet. Wildenstein may have had hopes of selling the painting, but was not able to obtain Monet prices for it.
When I inquired of the curator at the Clark about the provenance of the questionable Monet drawing, I was told, “Well, it’s in Wildenstein.”
I believe the drawing was by Helleu, but I was not sure if there was a connection between Monet and Helleu. Knowing now that he frequently visited Monet, makes it even easier to imagine how a Helleu drawing could get mixed up with Monet’s estate. And perhaps, in this case, too, Wildenstein had a hand in the misattribution.
But that doesn’t answer the question of who painted Monet’s portrait. There are clues in the painting itself. The landscape in the background is of a painting that Monet did while visiting Bordighera in 1884.
While in Bordighera he painted the portrait of an English artist. The identity of this artist was not known until recently. It is Arthur Alfred Burrington, who lived on the Riviera until his death in 1924.
The portrait of Monet seems quite different from Burrington’s other work. But I like to imagine these two artists working face face to face on their two portraits with Burrington perhaps being infused with some of the master’s genius.