Chronology : 19th century 1870-1879 1880-1889 1888 1890-1899 1890 1900-1909 1903 1910-1919 1913 1914 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.
1888 Les Poseuses by Seurat
2022 SOLD for $ 150M by Christie's
His first masterpiece is Une baignade à Asnières, oil on canvas 200 x 300 cm, exhibited in 1884 at the first Salon des Indépendants. The 24 year old artist revealed his indirect approach of color inspired by the theories of vision forwarded by Chevreul. The colors of Une baignade reach a softness by other methods than the impressionniste brushstroke or the pastel. The new art is named post-impressionnisme by Fénéon in 1886.
The second masterpiece, Un dimanche d'été à l'île de la Grande Jatte, of similar size, is exhibited in 1886 at the eight and final Exposition des Impressionnistes where it generates a discord between the historical impressionists supported by Degas and the post impressionists supported by Pissarro. Impressionnisme as a group was dead.
La Grande Jatte reuses the pointillism but in dull colors. Seurat had preferred composing a complex anti-bourgeois narration including humor and symbols. The work was too advanced when Seurat influenced by Signac appreciated that its cold colors were a mistake.
Galvanized by this legitimate misunderstanding of the public, Seurat started a new project in bright pointillist colors, Les Poseuses. This time the anti-bourgeois mood is replaced by subtle references to art history including himself.
The scene is staged in Seurat's studio. The left wall is covered by a truncated and slightly modified version of La Grande Jatte. The three drawings hanging on the back wall are a reference to Seurat's painstaking creative process.
Les poseuses are three positions of a model in full nudity, reminding the Three Graces. The standing figure in the center is a Venus pudica. The two side figures are seated, one from the back like Ingres's Grande baigneuse while the other in profile removes a stocking in the attitude of the Spinario.
The 200 x 250 cm canvas was exhibited in spring 1888 at the Salon des Indépendants. This painting also broke a taboo by revealing that women in painting were indeed staged by professional models.
Les Poseuses, Ensemble (petite version) was painted in 1888, arguably as a replica. Its small size, 39 x 50 cm, enabled larger dots for a vibrant color rendering. Being beside Cézanne's Montagne Sainte-Victoire a cornerstone of the Paul G. Allen collection, this oil on canvas was sold for $ 150M by Christie's on November 9, 2022, lot 8. Allen, a co-founder of Microsoft, had been appealed by pointillism as a precursor to digital imagery.
1888-1890 Montagne Sainte-Victoire by Cézanne
2022 SOLD for $ 138M by Christie's
The view on the Montagne Sainte-Victoire is magnificent from his new home. The mountain is standing out alone in a nearly symmetrical shape on the horizon. Desiring now to develop his art conceptions in seclusion, Paul takes it as a regular theme, sometimes framed by a large pine in the foreground.
New pictorial experiments are beginning. Cézanne manages to give up the optical truth of the Impressionnistes. The landscape becomes an orderly construction of geometrical shapes, providing the emotional sensation of another reality.
An oil on canvas 65 x 80 cm painted in 1888 or slightly later displays the dominating Montagne is all its purity, surrounded by the countryside without its real foreground of olive trees, roads and houses.
The flattened geometric mountain is colored in a range of soft blues, lilacs and white in an unprecedented balance of myriads of brush strokes. The underlined horizon are resolutely geometrical. Indeed impressionism and photography could not display such a powerful effect.
This painting was sold for $ 38.5M by Phillips, de Pury and Luxembourg on May 7, 2001, lot 5, and for $ 138M by Christie's on November 9, 2022, lot 14. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
The reality of the canceled foreground disturbed the artist. From 1902 his workshop at Les Lauves provides every morning to the aging artist the global view of the Montagne Sainte-Victoire as he had dreamed it in the 1880s, nevertheless with a loss in the symmetry of the peak..
Meules by MONET
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.
1890 W1273 Meules
2019 SOLD for $ 110M by Sotheby's
Monet loves this theme that is typical of country life without the need to add humans or birds. He begins at the end of summer 1890 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 was sold for $ 110M from a lower estimate of $ 55M by Sotheby's on May 14, 2019, lot 8. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
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 W1290 Meule
2016 SOLD for $ 81M by Christie's
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 pictured at sunset, was sold for $ 12M by Sotheby's on May 11 1999 and for $ 81M by Christie's on November 16, 2016, lot 9 B. Please watch the video shared by Christie's. The image below is shared by Wikimedia.
1899 Maternité by Gauguin
2022 SOLD for $ 106M by Christie's
Gauguin paints maternity scenes, with warm colors. Femmes sur le bord de la mer, later known as Maternité (I), shows a seated young mother breastfeeding her newborn. She is surrounded by two standing women who bring fruit and flowers, symbols of abundance and beauty. Fishermen and a dog complete the atmosphere. This oil on canvas 94 x 72 cm is kept at the Hermitage Museum in Saint-Petersburg.
Maternité (II), limited to the group of women, is therefore a more direct interpretation of the theme of fertility. This oil on burlap 95 x 61 cm was sold for $ 39M by Sotheby's on November 4, 2004, lot 15, and for $ 106M by Christie's on November 9, 2022, lot 11. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
With Gauguin the mystical interpretation, both religious and anticlerical, is always underlying. For example, a Nativité painted in 1902 stages a larger Polynesian group simulating the Crèche. The head of the baby is adorned with a radiant halo. This oil on canvas 44 x 62 cm was sold for $ 5.9M by Sotheby's on May 5, 2015.
1903 London by Monet
2022 SOLD for $ 76M by Christie's
The artist returns alone in the following year to the same hotel for a longer stay, in February and March. He loved the winter fog of London. Not for its mist but for its ever vanishing colors.
After Constable, Monet was a skilled interpreter of the English sky. He was more directly influenced from the atmosphere of London by Turner in the 1830s and by the nocturnal colors of the Thames by Whistler in the 1870s.
The light changes at every moment with the clouds pushed by the wind and the instability of the fog. He observes that some effects of light through the fog do not exceed five minutes. His control is total and even his method for applying his brush varies depending on the desired effect.
He applies every day an ambitious working plan with a schedule of the utmost rigor. Taking advantage of the benevolent help of the Savoy, he prepares dozens of canvases to translate in parallel all the shimmers of pink fog in the morning on Waterloo Bridge and in the early afternoon on Charing Cross Bridge.
In February 1900 he adds as a third view the sunset above the neo-Gothic buildings of the Houses of Parliament and the river. This activity was requiring the outdoor installation of his easels in parallel in the garden of St. Thomas's Hospital, as he had done in Giverny in 1891 for painting the Peupliers. Already a famous artist, Monet easily gets the authorization to work in this place. Every afternoon at 4:00, he leaves the hotel to retrieve or resettle his easels at the hospital.
The change of light in the early spring terminates the session when the sun is now higher and the light has changed. By considering the three views altogether, Monet started a hundred paintings during the 1900 stay.
He leaves London before spring when the sun is now higher and the light has changed. He returns with his paintings in 1901 during the same season but snow and cold prevent a further progress.
That selection of only three view points, all of them along the River Thames, for expressing the atmosphere of a big city was an amazing artistic conception. Monet is definitely not a tourist : the rest of the city does not interest him.
He reworked all of them simultaneously in his studio at Giverny and signed them with the date of the completion. He thus painted 41 views of the elegant Waterloo bridge, 37 views of Charing Cross bridge and 19 views of the Towers of Parliament. He considered that work as a whole and did not give visibility before the last of them was finished in 1904. Their exhibition by Durand-Ruel in that year got a considerable success. He also made pastels.
The subgroup of the Parliament from St. Thomas's at sunset consists of 19 oil paintings in a unique format 81 x 93 cm.
Le Parlement - soleil couchant, numbered 1603 by Wildenstein, was sold for $ 40.5M by Christie's on May 11, 2015, lot 24A. Dated 1902, this painting is one of the first that was completed by the artist, perhaps because the very expressive sky is particularly successful. Despite the clouds, the sun plays behind the high tower and the soft pink shades apply to the edges of the clouds and to the reflections in the river.
The Wildenstein 1604, with the same title and subtitle, was dated 1903 by the artist. Both were included in the 1904 exhibition of Monet's Vues de la Tamise à Londres at the Galerie Durand-Ruel.
Both sceneries were captured at about the same time at around 5 o'clock in another twilight, W1603 at a later date. W1603 displays a striking appearance of the sun amidst dramatic clouds while W1604 is foggy in violets, lilacs, blues and deep pink with a ghostly silhouette of the Parliament buildings.
W1604 was sold for $ 76M from a lower estimate of $ 40M by Christie's on May 12, 2022, lot 10C.
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
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.