Chronology : 19th century 1870-1879 1880-1889 1888 1889 1890-1899 1890 1900-1909 1905 1910-1919 1913 1914 1919 1920-1929 1923
1876 Bal du Moulin de la Galette by Renoir
1990 SOLD for $ 78 M including premium by Sotheby's
narrated in 2020
Their temperaments are different. They are young and tempted by the good life of dancing balls. While Monet is overtaken by his wife, Renoir expresses the carefree joie de vivre of the groups to which he applies the impressionist style. Le Bal du Moulin de la Galette in 1876 and Le Déjeuner des Canotiers, exhibited in 1882, are among the most important masterpieces of painting.
Renoir painted two identical versions of the Moulin de la Galette. The largest, 131 x 175 cm, became the property of the French State through the Caillebotte bequest and is currently at the Musée d'Orsay.
The other version is an oil on canvas 78 x 114 cm damaged by folding. Coming from the Whitney collection, it was sold for $ 78M including premium by Sotheby's on May 17, 1990. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
The buyer was a Japanese collector named Ryoei Saito, who had acquired the Portrait of Dr Gachet by Van Gogh two days earlier at Christies for $ 82M including premium. Saito creates some terror in the art world by announcing that at his death he will be cremated with the two paintings to avoid that enormous inheritance rights are required to his heirs.
Saito died in 1996. His threat was not carried out because his wealth had turned down and the artworks were sequestered by his creditors, but the two paintings were never seen again. The Van Gogh was reportedly located in 2007 in the collection of an Austrian financier who has since gone bankrupt.
1881 The Flower-Woman in Manet's Seasons
2014 SOLD for $ 65M including premium
Everything begins to change in 1881. His old friend Antonin Proust, close to Gambetta, suggests Manet to produce a series of allegorical paintings on the theme of the four seasons. Manet soaks carefully and slowly within this project.
The first paintings, Spring (Le Printemps) and Autumn, are made within that year. In the following year, studies of amazones show how Manet wanted to express Summer, but he died in 1883 without having worked on Winter. In 1882, Le Printemps and Un Bar aux Folies-Bergères finally provide Manet with a triumph in the Salon.
Spring is a time for renewal, hope and flowers. Manet was inspired by the ideal of the flower-woman played by the very young actress Jeanne Demarsy nicely dressed in flowery clothes in an environment of rhododendrons. Jeanne is seen in profile in the style of the Renaissance but proudly expresses the autonomy of the new woman.
Le Printemps, oil on canvas 74 x 52 cm, is for sale on November 5 by Christie's in New York, lot 16 estimated $ 25M.
This artwork is the subject of a video shared by Christie's (see below). The image is shared by Wikimedia:
1888-1890 The Movements of the Tablecloth
2019 SOLD for $ 59M including premium
I recently discussed in this column one of the first still lifes of this phase, sold for £ 21M including premium by Christie's on February 27, 2019. The composition seems naively simple until we perceive the imbalance of the plate. The observer awaits the tilting that will roll the fruit onto the table.
The artist will then increase the complexity. Bouilloire et fruits, oil on canvas 49 x 60 cm painted between 1888 and 1890, offers the dynamic contrast between a heavy pot steadily placed on the table and the fruits in a precarious balance in the folds of the tablecloth.
Cézanne reworked each painting tirelessly, seeking a perfection that existed only in his own imagination. Sometimes he stops before it is finished. The handle and the body of the kettle are disjointed. A lemon or an apple that did not suit the artist left some traces without disappearing completely.
It does not matter: the variety of forms and the mingling of the colors that constitute the textures are already satisfactory. Cézanne accepts to sell this unfinished work to a collector.
Bouilloire et fruits was sold for £ 18M including premium by Sotheby's on December 7, 1999. This painting is listed as lot 18A by Christie's in New York on May 13. The press release of March 27 announces an estimate in the region of $ 40M. Please watch the very short video shared by the auction house.
Painted in 1893 with a similar inspiration, Rideau, cruchon et compotier, oil on canvas 60 x 73 cm, was sold for $ 60M including premium by Sotheby's on May 10, 1999. The fruit bowl is not placed on the table.
1890 Between Harvest and Snow
2019 SOLD for $ 110M including premium
Monet loves this theme that is typical of country life without the need to add humans or birds. He begins with five landscapes in which two haystacks are distant from each other.
According to the sequence established by Wildenstein, the next sub-series is composed of two oil paintings on canvas 73 x 93 cm executed during the autumn of 1890. The alignment of two haystacks leads to the tall trees on the horizon, against the light in the last rays of sunset. For the first time the rest of the image is minimized. The predominance of the expression of colors over theme and form opens the way to modern art.
The second of these pictures, W1273, goes even further by managing to avoid the shadows of the two stacks. All that remains is the light that plays with the contours of stacks and trees and reveals the shimmering colors of the field. It was dated 1891 by the artist, certainly by reference to the year of the first public exhibition of the series, in the gallery of Durand-Ruel.
W1273 will be sold by Sotheby's in New York on May 14, lot 8. The March 15 press release announces an estimate in excess of $ 55M. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
The deep nature of a landscape can no longer be expressed by a single snapshot. In this series which ends in January 1891 and totals 25 paintings, Monet has captured 25 moments of light of a wide variety : morning, evening, full sun, snow, mist. In the last pictures the color also comes to sublimate the perspective with the reduction of the theme to a single haystack. Also taken at sunset, W1290 was sold for $ 81M including premium by Christie's on November 16, 2016.
An enduring symbol of Impressionism from Claude Monet's iconic Haystacks series will lead an important private collection of 8 Impressionist works on offer in #SothebysImpMod Evening Sale on 14 May in #NYC. Learn more: https://t.co/B4xVl8QWFA pic.twitter.com/SMDorfOowE— Sotheby's (@Sothebys) March 15, 2019
1891 A Stack in Winter
2016 SOLD for $ 81M including premium
He had been very active throughout that period. His paintings of the Gare St Lazare in 1877 constituted a series that displayed the variations in color depending on the intensity of sunlight and on the thickness of smoke from the trains. His solitary travel in Normandy in 1882 for comforting after the death of Camille is very important : Monet demonstrates to himself that lighting is better than topography for expressing a mood.
When comes the end of summer 1890 Monet is ready for a new experience. The vegetation will disappear with winter. As for every year the grain stacks will remain alone in the middle of the fields until the wheat threshing of the spring. They will be the perfect support for Monet to perform his observations of colors through all weather conditions and at all moments of time. This series totaled 25 paintings.
Three of them have been specifically grouped as a ultimate achievement of the Meules in the catalogue raisonné prepared by Daniel Wildenstein. Only one stack is visible in front of a retracted landscape. It is truncated either from top or from one side. The color emotion is not challenged by that figurative feature reduced to nothing more than a bulky triangle. In 1896, in front of one of these paintings, Kandinsky was dazzled.
Another Meule from that group of three, oil on canvas 73 x 92 cm painted in 1891, reference Wildenstein 1290, was sold for $ 12M including premium by Sotheby's on 11 May 1999. It is now for sale by Christie's in New York on November 16, lot 9 B. The targeted price was disclosed at around $ 45M by the specialized press.
Please watch the video shared by Christie's. The image below is shared by Wikimedia.
1893-1894 Rideau, cruchon and compotier by Cézanne
1999 SOLD 60 M$ including premium by Sotheby's
narrated in 2020
Cézanne no longer needs his art to earn a living and does not date his works. The chronology of his still lifes can only be based on the evolution of their complexity. His vision weakened by a diabetes identified in 1890 may have prompted him to seek these new solutions.
He tirelessly changes the position of the same objects, with the same varieties of fruit, seeking the extreme limit of balance. It is only by a very careful inspection that the observer discovers that a dish is not placed on the top of the table but bent over a hidden support.
The crumpled white tablecloth becomes an essential element of the composition, bringing the impression of the imminent fall of the objects and fruits that are placed on it. The arrangements are becoming increasingly complex.
In 1893 or 1894, Cézanne painted two similar compositions, with the same jug and stemcup on the same table, and the same curtain.
Pichet et fruits sur une table is less dramatic because it does not include the tablecloth. The visual confusion is brought by the cup whose real position in relation to the table is not discernible because it is half hidden by the pitcher. This oil on paper 42 x 72 cm was sold for £ 11.8M including premium by Sotheby's on February 3, 2010.
Rideau, cruchon et compotier dangerously distributes the fruits in the folds of the tablecloth. The cup, with a spectacular stacking of fruit, is here hidden behind a rise in the tablecloth. All this will fall to the ground in a few moments. This oil on canvas 60 x 73 cm was sold for $ 60M including premium by Sotheby's on May 10, 1999. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
La Corbeille de pommes, oil on canvas 65 x 80 cm kept at the Art Institute of Chicago, illustrates similar conceptions : the lower part of the cup is hidden by some fruit. Here the very tilted position of the basket is partially explained by a thick wedge whose usefulness in real life is questionable.
1905 Water Landscapes
2015 SOLD for $ 54M including premium
The artist begins a synthesis of this new theme with his concern from the previous twenty years for the changing colors and reflections under various time and weather. He had the good fortune to catch in his own garden the most subtle theme of modern painting.
The paintings of the first year of the Nymphéas series are very rare on the art market. One of them, 81 x 100 cm, was sold for £ 18.5 million including premium by Sotheby's on 19 June 2007. In this close-up view, the edge of the pond is already off the field, also providing an impression of infinity that anticipates Mondrian.
In 1905, the water lilies are more sparse to offer a better role to reflections that became recognizable although the trees are still out of field. The plants form a floating cohort simulating a nice horizontal movement.
A view in clear weather under a gentle sun, oil on canvas 90 x 100 cm, was sold for $ 44M including premium by Christie's on November 7, 2012.
On May 5 in New York, Sotheby's sells an oil on canvas 81 x 100 cm, lot 30 estimated $ 30M. Also dated 1905, it shows the blocks at the water surface in an atmosphere of early or late hour providing a superb harmony of deep blues and greens.
1913 The Analysis of Rhythm
2017 SOLD for $ 70M including premium
Léger admires the advances made by Cézanne while wanting to escape his theories. Geometric construction is indeed no more than a technique. The introduction of movement in painting by the Futurists is promising but remains anecdotal. Painting needs nothing else than displaying pure lines, shapes and colors which will capture the interest of the viewer by their own rhythm.
Like Kandinsky in Murnau, Léger conducts in parallel his pictorial trials and his theoretical research. His Femme en Bleu painted in 1912 is the switch into abstraction of a cubist work based on a classic theme. Balancing on this border between narrative and abstraction, Léger manages immediately afterward a reverted move in which the forms of the woman reappear. This oil on canvas 130 x 97 cm was sold for $ 39M including premium by Sotheby's on May 7, 2008.
Léger goes much further than Kandinsky and precedes Mondrian and Malevich : art can be abstract without any need to rely on a figurative sketch. In 1913 and 1914 he achieves about fourteen abstract paintings under the generic title Contraste de Formes. A contract with Kahnweiler brings him stability in his living conditions. The support by this merchant also slows down his habit of destroying his own works when the artistic effect does not respond to his perfectionist desire.
On November 13 in New York, Christie's sells as lot 14A a Contraste de Formes painted in 1913, oil on burlap 92 x 73 cm.
The progress made by Léger is decisive but soon interrupted by the stupid war that will annihilate Apollinaire. He will give up abstraction, no doubt because the effort to reach his own target for perfection was too exhausting. After this ephemeral momentum towards pure painting he will become an original image maker of modern life.
Please watch the video shared by Christie's.
1914-1917 The New Water Lilies
2018 SOLD for $ 85M including premium
Based in Giverny since 1883 the artist wants to create a water garden. In 1894 he purchases from Latour-Marliac plants from 32 different species including a yellow Nymphaea created in 1888 and a pink Nymphaea created in 1892. His interest in these hybrids is not immediate but his curiosity increases.
These new water lilies will become the stars of his garden. Monet paints his first Nymphéas in 1895, displaying the plants on the water in close-up with a botanical accuracy on canvases less than 1 m wide.
The artist is delighted by his garden. In 1904 the nymphéa pond becomes one of his favorite themes. The water lilies float in a cohort, bringing in conjunction with the reflections a vision of the surface of the water. In the same year he buys four other hybrids to Latour-Marliac
1914 is a terrible year. His son Jean dies in February, less than three years after Alice. International relations are desperate. Fortunately his friend Georges Clemenceau pushes him back to work by suggesting the project of the Grandes Décorations.
This new phase includes a major modification in Monet's art, the use of large formats of canvas. He looks more closely at the details of the flowers in his garden. A group of giant iris at water's edge 200 x 100 cm was sold for £ 10.8M including premium by Christie's on June 23, 2015.
On May 8 in New York, Christie's sells as lot 10 Nymphéas en fleur, oil on canvas 140 x 180 cm painted in his signature style of 1914-1917. The large size enables here a synthesis of the two visions of the artist. Nine big flowers in five groups have retrieved the details of the earliest series while the leaves and reflections are positioning the surface of the water on the whole of this image with no horizon.
#LiveLikeARockefeller: ‘The closer you get to the canvas, the more you feel like you’re inside it. The rest of the world vanishes,’ says Rebecca Wei, our President of Christie’s Asia, of the Rockefellers’ ‘Nymphéas en fleur’ by Claude #Monet.https://t.co/mT8EnKHNAN pic.twitter.com/LrOsMEJU7F— Christie's (@ChristiesInc) April 24, 2018
1917-1919 Le Bassin aux Nymphéas by Monet
2021 SOLD for $ 70M by Sotheby's
This piece is an oil of canvas 100 x 200 cm, a panoramic format used by Monet in the middle preparation phase of Les Grandes Décorations, from 1917 to 1919, after he completed a barn-like studio for the specific purpose of doubling the size of his pictures.
In conjunction with the complete removal of both shore and horizon, the large size of the flowers indeed brings the impression of a very close view of the pond. This immersion is enhanced by the reflections of green trees and blue sky in the interstices between the groups of floating plants.
The emotion and the presence are brought by the arrangement of the increasingly vibrant colors while the topographic depiction becomes unnecessary. This opus had probably been prepared at the end of the 1917-1919 period. It is indeed a forerunner of the trend to abstraction of the next phase of Monet's career.
1923 A Nice Farniente
2018 SOLD for $ 81M including premium
Henriette poses complacently because she appreciates the beauty of her athletic body. In parallel to nude studies, Matisse stages her in orientalist attires that are a new excuse for the shimmer of colors in her surroundings. Her portraits exudes her confidence in the artist without inhibiting her sensuality.
On May 8 in New York, Christie's sells as lot 8 Odalisque couchée aux magnolias, oil on canvas 61 x 81 cm painted in 1923. The nice intimacy of this artwork had seduced David and Peggy Rockefeller.
The young woman enjoys the pleasures of idleness, ready to nap or just finishing it. She is reclining on a chaise longue probably in the gate of a veranda. She wears on her shoulders a light shirt completely opened to expose the naked chest to the beneficent sun of the Côte d'Azur.
The orientalist impression is brought by the Persian harem pants which loosely cover the lower part of her body and by the screen behind her whose right panel is centered on two large magnolia flowers.
Please watch the video shared by Christie's.