Monet before 1900
Chronology : 19th century 1870-1879 1880-1889 1887 1890-1899 1890
1873 Railway Bridge at Argenteuil by Monet
2008 SOLD for $ 41.5M including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2020
Monet is one of the very first artists to take an interest in the railway as a symbol of modern life. The train comfortably carries the boaters, and its smoke enlivens the landscape. Until his series of views of the Gare Saint-Lazare in 1877, the artist expresses his enthusiasm for this new industry.
Le Pont du chemin de fer à Argenteuil is an oil on canvas 60 x 98 cm painted in 1873. The bridge mounted on four pairs of pillars goes through the image over its entire length. Two trains are crossing one another, one of them being mostly noticeable by the smoke of its locomotive in the blue summer sky. Two small sailboats pass under the bridge, and two men on the quay look peacefully at the river.
The bridge is the main theme of the picture thanks to the absence of details on the two banks. It is the only view in which Monet uses this specific bridge as a symbol of modernism. In the following year his paintings on the same site are to study the variation of light.
Le Pont du chemin de fer à Argenteuil was sold for $ 41.5M including premium by Christie's on May 6, 2008, lot 21. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
Renoir put his easel at the same place, probably side by side with his friend. Compared to the clarity of Monet's drawing, this sketch by Renoir is too tormented and not spacious enough. One year before the first impressionist exhibition, Monet appears here as a master of the expression of modern life in a classic style.
1876 Monet, Impressionist Artist working in Argenteuil
1988 SOLD for £ 14.3M by Sotheby's
2009 SOLD 11.2 M£ including premium
First, he is is listening to progress: the train on Argenteuil bridge, that Christie's sold $ 41 million charge included on 6 May 2008, was made in 1873.
He then experimented with intimate outdoor scenes, symbolized by the oil on canvas entitled Dans la Prairie (In the meadows), 60 x 82 cm, that Christie's will sell on February 4 in London, lot 19. Painted in 1876, it represents the artist's wife, Camille. She reads, surrounded by finely nuanced flowers, an umbrella behind her.
Despite the protests generated by the first two exhibitions of the Monet group in 1874 and 1876, his art had already champions, including Théodore Duret who bought our painting. In 1877, the tide is turning. The third exhibition, for which Duret lent his painting, is a success, and the group accepts the designation of Impressionists that had been given to them by some traditionalist art critics.
Talking price. Dans la Prairie has been sold twice by Sotheby's. In 1988, when the bubble began to swell, the artwork fetched 14.3 M£ (information provided in Christie's catalog). In 1999, under less favorable conditions, the hammer fell at 14 M$.
In 2009, the historic importance of this work suggests that it is resistant to the difficulties of the art market. Christie's hopes it in the region of £ 15 million. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
POST SALE COMMENT
Times are hard, but this historic Monet was sold respectably: £ 11.2 million including premium.
1877 The Great Station of Modernism
2018 SOLD for £ 25M including premium
Argenteuil decidedly does not inspire him any more. Just back from Montgeron he left for Paris with an authorization from the railway administration to work inside the Gare Saint-Lazare.
From January to March 1877 he made a sort of report composed of twelve artworks, four inside the station and eight outside, in varied weather conditions. A passer-by narrated that he saw Claude Monet perched on a stack of crates with his brush in his hand, feverishly waiting for the ambient light to match his expectations.
The choice of this theme is unexpected for this artist but is certainly not a self attempt to be disgusted from the smokes of the city. A better hypothesis is that Monet considered himself as a leader of the new outdoor painting and did not want to be overcome by the urban pictures of Caillebotte and Manet.
Indeed when the third exhibition of the Impressionnistes opened in April 1877 his Saint-Lazare series was already completed and it featured prominently in his selection. The rejection of modernist themes by Monet comes one year later when Camille fails to recover from a child birth. Life and work in the countryside become indispensable for Monet and his family. His Gares Saint-Lazare will remain forever an unparalleled set.
On May 8, 2018 Christie's sold for $ 33M including premium the only sunny image of the group, 61 x 81 cm.
On June 20 in London, Christie's sells another outdoor view, oil on canvas of the same size, lot 25 B estimated £ 22M. The foreground is intentionally empty to draw a better attention to the background where the thick steam from the trains mingle in a cloudy sky. The two locomotives and the tall arches of the glass roofs of the station provide the illusion of a picturesque instantaneous.
The image is shared by Wikimedia.
1877 The Ultimate Train of Claude Monet
2018 SOLD for $ 33M including premium
In January 1877 Monet spends a few days in Paris for a series on the Gare Saint-Lazare, one of the best symbols of modernism. He paints twelve canvases showing the interior with the platforms or the outside with trains coming or leaving. The result of this creativity is significant. The nauseating smoke of trains mingles with a heavily loaded sky and makes you want to run away.
Only one of the twelve paintings, 61 x 81 cm, escapes this pessimism thanks to a bright sunshine. The view is taken towards the double tunnel of the Batignolles. On the left the smoke is a fairly sharp cone. On the right the train has not yet come out and its smoke is diffused in all directions in the square, creating a veil in the atmosphere of clear weather.
In the best tradition of early Impressionnisme, this painting offers an ambience through which we can almost perceive heat and smell. Rockefeller did not make a mistake when he bought it. He liked this artwork very much while noting that the asking price had seemed high. It is for sale by Christie's in New York on May 8, lot 26.
This series marks a decisive turning point in Claude Monet's career. For the very last time he had tried to illustrate the progress. For nearly half a century he will stubbornly devote to landscapes, to monuments and to his garden.
The image is shared by Wikimedia.
1881 Alice in Vétheuil
2014 SOLD for $ 34M including premium
He leaves Argenteuil in 1878 due to financial difficulties and settles in a village further down the Seine, at Vétheuil, with his beloved wife Camille and a couple of friends, Ernest and Alice Hoschedé. The untimely death of Camille the following year rushes Alice into the arms of the artist.
In 1881, Monet paints Alice in the garden of Vétheuil. He remembers the time when the white dress of Camille was expressing purity. Alice is quietly sewing in a rich surrounding of foliage. The sunlight filtering through a large tree provides a continuity in texture between the green and the woman in light blue.
This oil on canvas 81 x 65 cm is estimated $ 25M, for sale bySotheby's in New York on November 4, lot 29.
That year marks the peak and the end of the first impressionist period of Monet. He is watched by scandal when he can no longer hide his affair with Alice, a married woman. In the following year, his long lonesome trip in Normandy makes him wish to express the variations of light in the landscape at various times of the day.
Claude married Alice in 1892, after the death of Hoschedé.
1885 A Summer in the Fields
2015 SOLD for $ 16.4M including premium
Monet moved further away from Paris. He settled in 1883 in Giverny with Alice and the eight children of this recomposed family. The difficult period that followed the death of Camille is finally over.
Village life is a delight for Monet. During the cold 1885 winter, his observation of frost leads to a direct interpretation of the changing colors of nature.
Then comes the summer. Claude and Alice love to finish the day in the meadow separated from their garden by a brook lined with poplars. The harvest is performed and the haystacks are awaiting to enter into the barn.
On May 14 in New York, Christie's sells an oil on canvas 65 x 81 cm dated 1885, lot 15C estimated $ 12M.
The composition is balanced, as always. A shadow is approaching the foot of the sun drenched stacks. In this soft shadow, halfway between the position of the artist and the poplars, the woman and three young children transform this peaceful landscape into a scene of intimate happiness.
1887 The Expression of the French Countryside
2014 SOLD for $ 20.3M including premium
On November 4 in New York, Sotheby's sells an oil on canvas 73 x 92 cm painted in 1887 entitled Sous les peupliers (under the poplars), lot 28 estimated $ 12M.
The control of his art is total. His impressionist manner is reinforced by a thick paint and the colors, as always, are beautiful and expressive. A similar view is held at the Staatsgalerie in Stuttgart. They are identified as the rural landscape in Limetz, not so far from Giverny.
This is in some way the culmination of the landscape art in France. Monet believes that his maturity is total. In the next year, he will be disappointed when the light and the wind of the Mediterranea will be too violent for his technique of outdoor painting. A new phase begins for him with more systematic studies of tiny variations of light in structured series: Haystacks in 1890 soon followed by the Poplars and by the Rouen Cathedrals.
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.
See the video shared by Christie's. The image below is shared by Wikimedia:
1891 The Humble Hours of Claude Monet
2011 SOLD 22.5 M$ including premium
The artist created a first series of thirteen outdoor paintings, viewed from the same point. He was working on all these canvas in parallel, looking for the whole variety of light through the trees. The study of the reflections in the water anticipates the Water lilies of Giverny.
The oil on canvas, 117 x 73 cm, for sale by Christie's in New York on May 4, has an excellent quality, always appreciated by the market: it is in its original condition, having never been varnished.
Christie's had sold it $ 7M including premium on 8 November 2000. It is now estimated $ 20M.
Back to Monet. He made afterwards a second series of eleven views of the same subject, showing the variety of seasons, and began in 1892 his systematic study of light effects on the cathedral of Rouen, which amazed all art lovers.
POST SALE COMMENT
Sold $ 22.5 million including premium, this major painting has not exceeded its lower estimate. It is the bad surprise of the sale.
With such a result, how should we interpret the peremptory statements of some observers who say that there would almost remain no more top Impressionist works on the market ...
Please watch the video shared by Christie's.
1893 The Slow Drift of the Ice Blocks
2017 SOLD for $ 23.4M including premium
In January 1893 Monet is working outdoors at Bennecourt, not far away from Giverny, and watches the ice blocks drifting on the Seine river. He prepares his series carefully until the thaw before finishing the paintings in his studio according to his usual practice. Very similar at first sight, these artworks display significant variations of the atmosphere.
The view numbered 1337 by Wildenstein is titled Glaçons, Effet blanc. The artist shares the chilly mist of that winter which he likes so much. This oil on canvas 65 x 100 cm was sold for $ 16M including premium by Sotheby's on November 6, 2013 over a lower estimate of $ 9M.
On November 14 in New York, Sotheby's sells the Wildenstein 1336, lot 25 estimated $ 18M. In the same size as the 1337, it is colored by an attenuated sunlight. The thaw is less advanced and the ice blocks closer to the observer define the water plane above the reflections of the tall trees.
The art of Claude Monet is a continuous progress. 1336 anticipates the magics of the Nymphéas plane marking the surface of the pond that will occupy him from 1905 to 1919.
Please watch the video in which Sotheby's also shows another landscape coming at the same auction sale.
1896 Repetition of the Dawn
2018 SOLD for $ 20.5M including premium
Les Peupliers, like Les Meules in 1890-1891 and Les Cathédrales de Rouen completed in 1894, address all the hours of the day, offering too much contrasts between the paintings of the series. The success of these three sets is considerable with the public but the aesthetic result cannot fully satisfy the demanding artist.
During the summer of 1896 Monet gets up every day at 3:30am, operates up to 14 canvases in parallel with the help of an assistant always at the same place at the confluence of the Epte and the Seine rivers, paints the mists when they dissipate at sunrise and leaves for the rest of the day. The title of the series is Matinée sur la Seine. Some paintings are panoramic but others are square, which is bold for a landscape.
He has no luck. Summer and the beginning of autumn are very rainy. He finishes only four paintings at the end of this season. One of them, 89 x 92 cm, was sold for $ 5.7M including premium by Sotheby's in New York on November 9, 2000. It returns at the same venue on May 14, lot 15 estimated $ 18M. The poor weather brings soft contrasts without saturating the shadows.
Monet returned to the same river bank in 1897 without changing anything in his creative process from the previous year, bringing the total of the Matinées to 22 paintings. One of them on which the sun rays are just reaching the trees in the background, also 89 x 92 cm, was sold for $ 23.4M including premium by Christie's on November 13, 2017.
Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
A highlight of #SothebysImpMod Evening Sale in #NYC, Claude Monet's Matinée sur la Seine is now on view in London. Stop by 34-35 New Bond Street through 5pm GMT tomorrow to visit this dreamlike scene and head over to our website to learn more: https://t.co/5MHWXEdwzu pic.twitter.com/cSZJwSAYcf— Sotheby's (@Sothebys) April 9, 2018