In a second-floor corner of the MFA, you will find Claude Monet’s “Entrance to the Village of Vétheuil in Winter.”
It will not shout at you, as others do in the Art of Europe wing, and you will be grateful for this.
The painting forces nothing; it suggests. It suggests recent snowfall and more to come this evening, perhaps. It suggests a few wanderers, though if you deny this you’ll meet little objection. It suggests a tree and houses and farmland and leaves of a peculiar blue. Its blue-grey overcast suggests the chance of sun, but more likely darkness within the hour. Monet captures a fleeting transitional moment of the afternoon that occurs during only a couple months in the year. The type of day that never really is day, but rather acts as a foggy placeholder between nights.
Whether you claim winter as your idyll, or you winter in Florida to escape the season all together, the painting captures a rare moment of tranquility, and it’s silence is palpable.
Monet painted “Entrance to the Village of Vétheuil in Winter” in 1879, and its subject–the village of Vétheuil–is far enough down the Seine that it had not yet been touched by modernity, according to the MFA’s website. It soon would be, of course, as all other villages in Europe and most of the rest of the world have been. So, in a way, this painting is about transitions. Day to night, old to modern, winter to spring. Luckily, the painting itself hangs permanently in its corner.
You don’t need another reason to visit the MFA, but Monet’s ”Entrance to the Village of Vétheuil in Winter” is a reason to visit before Winter break, before Boston dumps snow and makes you wish you’d gone to school in Southern California. It’s an image that welcomes calm to its viewer, before he or she gathers with family for the holidays and copes with the related stresses.
Visit it in person, and you’ll feel it too.