Sotheby’s will offer an outstanding group of six paintings by Claude Monet, spanning the 1870s through the 1910s and including many of his most celebrated subjects: water lilies, Venice, a snowscape, the Seine and the Normandy coast. The works are emerging after significant time spent in their respective private collections, including a prime example of the artist’s iconic Nymphéas (‘Water Lilies’) series that was acquired by its present owner in 1955 (estimate $30–45 million*), and a Venice scene restituted to the son of legendary collector Jakob Goldschmidt in 1960 that is on offer from the collection of his grandson, the late Anthony Goldschmidt (estimate $15–20 million). In total, the six Monet paintings are estimated to achieve in excess of $78 million. Each of the works will be on view in London from 10–14 April, before returning to New York for exhibition on 1 May.
Simon Shaw, Co-Head of Sotheby’s Worldwide Impressionist & Modern Art Department, commented: “The six works by Monet that we are privileged to present this May represent exactly what buyers are seeking at this moment: several of his most famous scenes, emerging from prestigious private collections and completely fresh to the market. We’re undeniably witnessing an exceptional moment for great works by Monet at Sotheby’s. As new generations and new markets rediscover the master, the supply of strong examples remaining in private hands is shrinking fast. The result is fierce competition that leads to the results we have witnessed recently at Sotheby’s.”
Sotheby’s sold 18 works by Monet in 2014, with buyers from the US, UK, Europe, the Middle East and Asia demonstrating the global appeal of his enduring genius in today’s market. The works together achieved a remarkable $190.5 million, led by another example of the Nymphéas paintings (dated to 1906) that sold for $54.1 million – the second-highest price for any work by the artist at auction. Sotheby’s sold five works by Monet in its February 2015 Evening Sale of Impressionist & Modern Art in London, which together totaled $83.8 million. That group was led by Le Grand Canal, another Venice picture that fetched $35.8 million – the current auction record for a Venice scene by the artist.
Nymphéas 1905 Estimate $30–45 million
Monet’s Nymphéas paintings stand as the most celebrated series in Impressionist art. The famous lily pond in the artist’s gardenat Giverny provided the subject matter for most of his major late works, recording the evolution of his style and his constant pictorial innovations. The present example dates from 1905, and has remained in the same distinguished private collection since 1955.
Until Sotheby’s worldwide exhibitions this spring, the painting has not been viewed in public since 1945.
This work was included in the seminal exhibition held at the Galerie Durand-Ruel in 1909, which Monet titled Les nymphéas, series de paysages d'eau par Claude Monet. The artist insisted on payment for almost all the works to be included in the show, resulting in legendary dealer Durand-Ruel – who did not have the funds to bankroll the whole exhibition – having to acquire the pictures jointly with the Bernheim-Jeune brothers. Monet and the dealers chose 48 canvases, all of the same subject, which were shown in three rooms and drew the attention and admiration of countless collectors.
The first owners of the present Nymphéas were Émil and Alma Staub-Terlinden of Männedorf. Together they amassed one of the finest private collections of Impressionist art in Switzerland, with much of it being purchased over a short period of time around the end of the 1910s. The painting remained in the Staub-Terlinden’s possession for many years, before being acquired by the present owner.
Le Palais Ducal 1908 Estimate $15–20 million
Monet’s spectacular view of the Palazzo Ducale on the Grand Canal belongs to the extraordinary series he completed in the fall of 1908 in Venice. Painted from the south-east vantage of a floating pontoon, the scene depicts the Palace, with its Byzantine fenestrations adorning the façade, alongside the Ponte della Paglia and the prison building on the right. Le Palais Ducal was confiscated from noted collector Jakob Goldschmidt by the National Socialist Government in February 1941. The painting was included in a forced auction of the Goldschmidt collection in September of that year, where it was bought as a present for the Nazi industrialist Dr. Albert Vögler – a former client of Jakob, who owed much of his success to Jakob’s financial genius. In 1960, the picture was reclaimed from Vögler’s heirs by Jakob’s son Erwin Goldschmidt, following 10 years of litigation in Hamburg. It subsequently descended to Erwin’s son Anthony Goldschmidt, who died in 2014. Sotheby’s held the first evening sale in its history in1958, with an auction dedicated to a selection of works that Jakob Goldschmidt had been able to get out of Germany – both through friends, and hidden in the trunk of his car. This landmark sale broke numerous records and ushered in a new era for the Impressionist & Modern art market. As it was restituted in 1960, the present work was not offered as part of this famed sale – as a result, it has never been exhibited publicly until Sotheby’s exhibitions this spring.
Bassin aux nymphéas, les rosiers 1913 Estimate $18–25 million
A vibrant example from 1913, Bassin aux nymphéas, les rosiers represents Monet at the height of his mature style. Here he depicts an arceaux de roses overlooking the tranquil surface of a pond with scattered clusters of water lilies. Monet painted three oils from this precise vantage point, one of which is now housed at the Phoenix Art Museum in Phoenix, Arizona, and the current version is the largest from this series. The work was acquired by its present owner in 1991.
Le Chemin d'Epinay, effet de neige 1875 Estimate $6–8 million
Resplendent with the glimmer and frosty sheen of snow and ice, Le Chemin d'Epinay, effet de neige depicts the trodden road leading into the town of Épinay-sur-Seine on the outskirts of Paris. This picture dates from the height of Monet's involvement with the Impressionists in Paris, when the artist was considered the premier landscape painter of the group – among whom snow scenes (effet de neige) were an important tradition. The present work may have been included in the historic second group showing of the Impressionists in 1876, as both it and a picture currently in the collection of the Albright-Knox Gallery match the description of one listed in the 1876 catalogue. It was acquired by its present owner at a Sotheby’s New York auction in 1984.
La Seine à Vétheuil 1901 Estimate $6–8 million
The small village of Vétheuil is situated along the Seine between the city of Mantes and the town of Vernon, and was home to Monet and his family between 1878 and 1880. This picturesque location was the site of some of Monet’s most successful Impressionist landscapes during this period, and continued to fascinate him well into his later career. Of the 15 paintings from the Vétheuil series, a number are now in the collections of major international museums, including the Art Institute of Chicago, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, The Musée d’Orsay in Paris, and The Pushkin Museum in Moscow. The work has remained in the same private collection since 1955, and has never before appeared at auction.
Au Val Saint-Nicolas près Dieppe, matin 1897 Estimate $3–4 million
This dramatic cliff-top view of the Atlantic dates from Monet's painting expedition in Pourville in 1897. These paintings of the Normandy coast were the first works Monet completed after the exhibition of his Rouen Cathedral series, and his concern with capturing the fleeting effects of light and atmosphere and the way they transform a landscape predominates.