Claude Monet’s Meules from the artist’s acclaimed Haystacks series took the spotlight of New York auction week after selling for a staggering US$110.7m, setting an auction world record for the artist and a world auction record for impressionist art. It became the first work of impressionist art to sell for more than US$100m at auction and the 9th most expensive painting ever auctioned.
Claude Monet’s Meules was hammered down at US$97m
Claude Monet’s Meules at Hong Kong preview
Claude Monet’s Meules sold for US$110.7m at Sotheby’s New York
Monet's Haystack painting｜The Art Institute of Chicago
Monet's Haystack painting｜The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
While Claude Monet is best known for his water lilies series, his Haystacks series is no less precious than his water lilies, or even rarer. In merely 18 months between 1890 and 1891, Monet created 25 paintings for the Haystacks series. Amongst the 25 Haystack paintings Monet created, 17 are located in museums, which makes only 8 in private hands.
The bidding of Monet’s Meules evolved into a fierce bidding war that lasted more than 8 minutes and elicited over 33 bids. With various telephone bidders showing interest, the price rose up to US$75m shortly after the bidding was opened, exceeding its estimate of US$55m. As the bidding battle got more intense, only two contestants remained at the battlefield. One of them was Brooke Lampley, Vice Chairman, Fine Arts Division, while another was a woman in the saleroom.
Brooke Lampley, Vice Chairman, Fine Arts Division
The painting was hammered down at US$97m, a victorious bid by the woman in the room with the paddle no. 989. It was sold for US$110.7m after premium, becoming the first work of impressionist art to sell for more than US$100m at auction. Meules was last sold at an auction in New York in 1986 for US$2.5m only. The value of the painting has increased 43 times in 33 years.
The auction record for the artist was previously held by his water lilies painting Nymphéas en feur (circa 1914-1917) that was sold for US$84.6m at Christie’s sale of the Collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller. The record is now reset by Meules, which holds the auction record for the artist and for impressionist art. It is now the 9th most expensive painting ever auctioned.
Nymphéas en feur was sold for US$84.68m at Christie’s New York
August Uribe, Head of Impressionist & Modern Art Department Sotheby’s, introduced the painting to us before the sale
Throughout the history of art, landscape painting has always been a popular subject. However, Monet was the first to represent time in a single subject in landscape painting. Although the series is named Haystacks, Monet actually employed grainstacks as the subject. Through the history of civilisation, the harvest of grain determines whether humans can survive, especially during the hard months of winter.
Many celebrated artists, such as Jean-François Millet and Vincent van Gogh, had included the subject of grainstack in the greater context of a landscape. Millet would celebrate the farmers who were toiling the fields yet Monet’s series feature no figures. The voluminous stacks themselves have already suggested great fertility.
Des glaneuses by Jean-Francois Millet｜Musée d'Orsay, Paris
Landscape with Wheat Sheaves and Rising Moon by Vincent van Gogh｜Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, Netherlands
In merely 18 months between 1890 and 1891, Monet created 25 paintings for the Haystacks series. At 50 years old, Monet was at the height of his powers and recognised for his talents. It was unprecedented to see an artist spending such a long period of time to explore the notion of light and weather and distill landscape into one subject. The series stunned the art industry when it was first exhibited in 1892.
Many of the paintings in the Haystacks series are quite static. Yet Meules from 1890 has a more dynamic composition and has a receding perspective in an abstraction. The grainstacks in the painting, as compared to the others in the series, are much more abstract with more radical use of colours.
Sotheby’s New York Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale ｜Works that fetched over US$10m
Claude Monet (1840 - 1926). Meules.
Lot no.: 8
Size: 72.7 x 92.6cm
- Durand-Ruel, Paris (acquired from the artist on July 2, 1891)
- Mr. & Mrs. Potter Palmer, Chicago (acquired from the above on March 7, 1892)
- Durand-Ruel, New York (acquired from the above in 1892)
- W.C. Van Horne, Montreal (acquired from the above on April 19, 1892)
- Durand-Ruel, New York (acquired from the above in 1892)/
- Mr. & Mrs. Potter Palmer, Chicago (acquired from the above on November 22, 1892)
- Honoré & Grace Palmer, Chicago (by descent from the above)
- Sale: Christie’s, New York, May 14, 1986, lot 18
- Acquired at the above sale
Estimate: in excess of US$55,000,000
Hammer price: US$97,000,000
Price realised: US$110,747,000
Pablo Picasso (1881-1973). Femme au chien.
Lot no.: 33
Created: 23 November 1962 - 14 December 1962
Size: 162 x 130cm
- Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris
- Galerie Beyeler, Basel
- Acquired from the above on April 6, 1990
Estimate: US$25,000,000 - 35,000,000
Hammer price: US$48,000,000
Price realised: US$54,936,000
Pablo Picasso (1881 - 1973). Mousquetaire à la pipe.
Lot no.: 40
Created: 13 October 1968
Size: 145.1 x 96.5cm
- Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris (acquired from the artist in 1969 and until at least 2007)
- Private Collection, Switzerland
- Arlberg Art Company, London
- Acquired from the above in 2009
Estimate: US$20,000,000 - 30,000,000
Hammer price: US$18,000,000
Price realised: US$20,766,000
Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1894). La rue halévy, vue du sixième étage.
Lot no.: 17
Size: 59.5 x 73cm
- Paul Hugot, Paris (acquired circa 1894)
- E. J. van Wisselingh & Co., Amsterdam (acquired circa 1966)
- Wildenstein & Co. Inc., New York (acquired from the above in 1967)
- Mr. & Mrs. Chester Roth, New York (acquired in 1969)
- Private Collection, New York (by descent from the above in 1977)
- Aldis Browne Fine Arts, New York?
- Acquired from the above in 1981
Estimate: US$6,000,000 - 8,000,000
Hammer price: US$12,000,000
Price realised: US$13,932,000
Chaim Soutine (1893-1943). La femme en rouge.
Lot no.: 26
Created: around 1923 - 24
Size: 91.4 x 65.1cm
- Francis Carco, Paris (and sold: Hôtel Drouot, Paris, March 2, 1925, lot 75)
- Léopold Zborowski, Paris (probably acquired at the above sale)
- The Drs. Bakwin, New York (acquired from the above in 1934)
- Thence by descent
Estimate: US$6,000,000 - 8,000,000
Hammer price: US$9,400,000
Price realised: US$10,970,600
Auction house: Sotheby’s New York
Sale: New York Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale
Date: 14 May 2019
Lots offered: 55
Sold by lots: 91%
Sale total: US$349,859,150