Sotheby’s spring Impressionist & Modern Art sale takes place in New York on Tuesday May 14, and it promises a special moment for collectors eyeing Claude Monet. Meules (estimate in excess of $55m), one of the finest examples of the artist’s iconic Haystacks series from 1890, signed and dated by the artist in 1891, will be on view for the first time in over 30 years. This radiant masterpiece is one of only eight works in the series that remain in private hands, and has a rare provenance, having been acquired directly from the artist’s dealer shortly after its completion.
“It was in 1890 with the Haystacks that Monet began an intrepid exploration of the varying effects of light and atmosphere on a single subject over the course of time,” says Brooke Lampley, vice chairman of Sotheby’s Fine Art Division.“It is these ‘series’ pictures of haystacks, Rouen Cathedral and the waterlilies in Giverny that would eventually come to define his immense contribution to not only impressionism, but also abstraction and 20th-century art.”
“It is a thrill to be offering a Meule that is not only distinguished among those remaining in private hands, but also easily ranks among the best in the entire series,” she says. “This is a painting that showcases Claude Monet as an unparalleled landscape painter and a radically innovative conceptual artist who would influence generations of artists to come.”
The evening auction promises to bring palpable energy to New York and the global art market – and, with a portion of the proceeds going to not-for-profit institutions in the realms of science and music, it will also be a significant philanthropic moment. While Monet’s magnificent painting is expected to be the star of the show, seven important works by impressionist greats from this single collection will also be under the hammer.
The seven pieces in this exquisite assemblage are Paul Signac’s pointillist Antibes, Soir ($4m-$6m) from 1903; Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s Nature Morte au Melon ($2m-$3m) – a rare, intimately scaled still-life, c1882; Pierre Bonnard’s Nature Morte à la Levrette ($2m-$3m) from c1923; Le Grand Noyer au Printemps, Eragny ($2m-$3m) by Camille Pissarro; Edouard Vuillard’s Madame Vuillard Cousant à la Closerie des Genêts from 1920-21 ($700,000-$1.2m); Alfred Sisley’s vibrant Les Hautes Eaux à Moret-sur-Loing ($1.2m-$1.8m); and Edouard Manet’s La Femme à l’Ombrelle ($1.8m-$2.5m).
From Friday May 3, the group will be on view at Sotheby’s newly designed galleries on York Avenue, where visitors will be transported to Normandy through Monet’s light-filled landscape that stands as one of art history’s most important images.