Sotheby’s to Offer One of the Largest Monet "Haystack" Paintings for US$55m

Claude Monet’s (1840 - 1926) Water Lilies is undoubtedly one of the most sought-after art series in history. His Haystacks series is no less precious than Water Lilies. Featured in Sotheby’s upcoming Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale is Monet’s Meules from 1890. Today, we have invited August Uribe, Head of Impressionist & Modern Art Department Sotheby’s, to talk about this US$55m painting by the renowned French artist.

Meules will be auctioned on 14 May in New York

Haystacks is one of Monet's most renowned series

Monet is considered the founder of French Impressionist painting 

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.

August Uribe, Head of Impressionist & Modern Art Department Sotheby’s

Part of Meules 

Part of Meules

Artists before Monet in the 19th century put their focus on being realistic and capturing as many details as possible. However, what Monet wanted was to capture the soul of the view before him.

Most would think that this painting is capturing the moment. Yet, Monet did not point out the particular time of day it captures. Whether it depicts the evening or dawn, it all depends on the audience’s perspective and interpretation.

Monet's Haystack painting|The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Monet's Haystack painting|The Art Institute of Chicago

Monet's Haystack painting|The Art Institute of Chicago

Amongst the 25 Haystack paintings Monet created, 17 are located in museums, which makes only 8 in private hands. In the last 10 years, at least 8 Water Lilies paintings have appeared in the market whereas only 3 from his Haystack series have been seen in the last three decades, making the painting for sale even more valuable.

There were three primary formats in this series. The three largest paintings were around 73 x 92 cm, including the painting featured today. This spectacular painting will very likely exceed its estimate of US$55m.  

Claude Monet (1840-1926), Meules 

Auction house: Sotheby’s New York
Sale: Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale
Sale date: 14 May 2019 |7pm
Lot no.: 8
Created in: 1890
Size: 72.7 x 92.6 cm

  • 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: over US$55,000,000